Di Carmine Screamer Inspires Rangers
A CRACKERJACK from Italian forward Samuel Di Carmine handed Rangers all three points in a controversial affair at Loftus Road.
The major talking point came in the first half when referee ofGhost Goal fame, Stuart Atwell, was quick to whip out a red card to the surprise of everyone at Loftus Road when Mikele Leigertwood`s challenge with Lee Carsley was deemed to be dangerous.
The second half strike from the Fiorentina loanee galvanised Rangers marshalled by former Roma and Italian international Damiano Tommasi. The Italian rolled back the years to put in a sterling midfield display as Gareth Ainsworth`s team epitomised the man himself with 100% effort and commitment to see the team through.
Birmingham offered little in attacking play with misplaced passes and wayward shooting sending manager Alex McLeish into a fit of rage on the halfway line, as his side drew a blank in W12.
Damiano Tommasi came in for his debut, the man who wasn`t deemed anywhere near fit to play a week ago today by former manager Iain Dowie, started in a central midfield berth alongside Martin Rowlands.
Dexter Blackstock and Emmanuel Ledesma also joined the starting line-up at the expense of Gavin Mahon and Akos Buzsaky who dropped to the bench. Rangers lined up in a changed formation of 4-4-2 with Gareth Ainsworth`s side looking to build on a positive draw against Reading on Saturday.
Birmingham City were rocked by a late injury to star striker Garry O`Connor, meaning they had an able replacement in James McFadden to step up from the bench. He played as part of a three pronged attack with Kevin Phillips being flanked by the Scotsman and Carmon Jerome.
The Blues also named Rangers youth product Nigel Quashie on the bench, as McLeish`s side would look to emulate the way they started the month by beating Rangers.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Birmingham City
Rangers started the game in tentative fashion as the Blues were displaying why they are the divisions pace setters. Cameron Jerome broke a suspect offside trap to race clear and bring an outstanding save from Czech stopper Radek Cerny.
Barely moments later Cerny was called into action once again, a half-hearted clearance saw Kevin Phillips free on the right hand side of the area. Super Kev doesn`t need to be told twice to have an effort, as his well-placed volley was tremendously saved once again by Cerny.
Rangers began to pick up some momentum and Lee Cook was beginning to get into his stride down the left flank making some jinking runs before moving the ball inside. In fact it was Cook who had the R`s best chance of the opening stages as a clearance dropped to the winger outside the area, but some poor technique from Cook saw him screw his volley wide.
Following a good spell of possession from Birmingham City, Rangers were finding the going tough. Lee Carsley was orchestrating proceedings in the middle, with James McFadden looking impressive down the right flank. Kevin Phillips was his usual self, with some impeccable movement pulling the R`s defenders every which way, but to their credit they never buckled.
Emmanuel Ledesma missed the target after a useful flick-on by Blackstock, as the conditions began to take hold at a bitterly cold Loftus Road. But it was the hosts who continued to press against their table-topping opponents with Martin Rowlands in-swinging free-kick drawing a useful save from Northern Ireland international Maik Taylor.
Dexter Blackstock and Samuel Di Carmine got themselves in a muddle after a Lee Cook cross, with both strikers peeling away to the front post before the Italian guided his shot narrowly wide of Taylor`s near post, with the keeper rooted to his line.
Rangers were beginning to move the ball around well and playing positively with Tommasi the lynchpin in the midfield, orchestrating proceedings against a tough midfield.
Then came the major talking point of the first period as young Mr Attwell incurred the wrath of the Rangers faithful when he inexplicably dished out a red card for Mikele Leigertwood.
The full back`s poor touch in the centre of the field saw him stretching for the ball against experienced pro Lee Carsley. Carsley nicked the ball away from the former Sheffield United man, as Leigertwood caught him in the midriff with the sole of his boot.
What was in essence not a malicious challenge, albeit a late tackle, could have warranted a yellow card or stern warning. Mr Attwell gave himself absolutely no thinking time, brandishing a read card with immediate effect to the disbelief of all parties concerned.
Then came an arguably even bigger talking point when Birmingham City were on the counter-attack. Tommasi tussled with McFadden before winning the ball, after the ball had gone with McFadden on the floor, the Scottish international swiped a leg at Tommasi and make considerable contact. The referee next to the incident assumedly did not see it, with both other officials seemingly blind to what had occurred.
Rangers ended the half in a furore of emotion with the officials booed off the field. Damion Stewart had to haul players away from the referee, with Gareth Ainsworth himself keen to have a word as they went down the tunnel.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Birmingham City
Gareth Ainsworth reacted instantly to being reduced to ten men, introducing defensive midfielder Gavin Mahon in place of winger Lee Cook, who has been sacrificed once again in face of negative numbers.
The sending off seemed to be counter-productive for the Blues, as a previously dormant Rangers crowd was brought to life and galvanised their side as Loftus Road was rocking early in the second period. Every touch was cheered by the home faithful, and every puff on the referee`s whistle was jeered, as Rangers fans must have thought the world was against them.
That was until Samuel Di Carmine somehow gave Rangers the lead, in a goal worthy to grace any encounter. In the warm up Di Carmine lashes the ball in the top corner for fun, displaying unbelievable technique. However the main difference is the amount of time he takes to get his shot away.
Some excellent interplay between Tommasi and Blackstock found Di Carmine and Blues gave the young Italian as much time as he needed as he fired a rasping drive past Maik Taylor. The strike nearly brought the roof down at Loftus Road in wet and windy conditions in W12.
The emotions were no more diverse than on the touchline with Alex McLeish with his head in his hands, and Ranger caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth performing a Klinsman dive on the pitch, as everyone`s emotions in the ground seemed to get the better of them.
Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Birmingham City
With Ainsworth getting carried away on the touchline it was difficult to pull his players feet back down to the floor, and they nearly paid the ultimate price with Gavin Mahon hacking the ball off the line to preserve the R`s clean sheet.
With the atmosphere in the first half tepid at best, Loftus Road was now a cauldron of noise, as they made up the 11th man that they had lost late on in the first period. Noise coming from all four corners of the ground as home fans populated the lower school end once more in the face of depleted away travel.
Emmanuel Ledesma nearly gave Rangers fans something further to cheer when his left-footed free kick was well saved by Maik Taylor to his left. The Argentinean was beginning to come into his own, as it appeared the shackles had been let off.
Alex McLeish was growing visibly frustrated with his side on the touchline as wayward passing and inability to create meaningful chances caused him to throw on the quality of former Arsenal forward Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Marcus Bent, Rangers would have their work cut-out in the final moments of the game with several strikers populating the Blues front-line.
A backs to the wall final quarter of an hour saw Rangers defend stoutly, and the introduction of Hogan Ephraim gave them a different depth to their attacking threat. Ephraim making his first appearance of the season was hardly imposing in the air, but his effort and commitment gave Martin Taylor and Liam Ridgewell plenty to worry about.
After a while Hogan reverted to right midfield with an exhausted Emmanuel Ledesma forced to pursue the lone strikers role. The aforementioned pair of Ledemsa and Ephraim linked up on numerous occasions with midfielder Tommasi showing no signs of any previous fitness issues of which Iain Dowie deemed him not worthy for a starting place.
Birmingham fans were dancing in the school end when Kevin Phillips netted from a swift counter attacking move, but the Rangers nemesis was this time thwarted by the linesman`s flag, much to the relief of myself and Rangers fans sitting around me. Could Rangers hold on for this momentous win?
Teeth were chattering and nails bitten down to the bone, in deteriorating weather conditions as the Blues continued to pile forwards into the box , with manager McLeish and his assistant Roy Aitken barking the orders from the touchline - but in the end to no avail.
With that Rangers had their win, running down the clock in expert fashion before the ten heroes on the field defended stoutly to hand Gareth Ainsworth his first win as caretaker boss.
Carnival de Paris rang around Loftus Road as Rangers had put in a truly tremendous shift which culminated in three hard found and well-deserved points.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Birmingham City
QPR: Radek Cerny, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Mikele Leigertwood, Dexter Blackstock (Akos Buzsaky 69), Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook (Gavin Mahon 46), Damiano Tommasi, Emmanuel Ledesma, Samuel Di Carmine (Hogan Ephraim 74).
Birmingham City: Maik Taylor, Martin Taylor, Liam Ridgewell, James McFadden, Kevin Phillips, Cameron Jerome (Marcus Bent 64), Mehdi Nafti (Quincy Owusu-Abeyie 64), Kemy Agustien, Franck Quedrue, Stuart Parnaby (Wilson 12).
Radek Cerny - 8/10
Mikele Leigertwood - 6/10
Matthew Connolly - 7/10
Damion Stewart - 8/10
Fitz Hall - 7/10
Emmanuel Ledesma - 7/10
Lee Cook - 6/10
Damiano Tommasi - 8/10
Martin Rowlands - 7/10
Dexter Blackstock - 6/10
Samuel Di Carmine - 9/10
SUB: Gavin Mahon - 7/10
Gavin was integral in the middle of the park alongside Tommasi in order to stfile the creativity of the Blues midfield. He found himself in the unfamiliar position of left wing on a couple of occasions, and looked effective in his ability to keep hold of the ball, drawing on his strength and passing ability.
SUB: Akos Buzsaky - 6/10
Didn't have that much of an impact on proceedings but neverthless contributed to the occasion. His gave Ledemsa some options as he crept over from the left flank.
SUB: Hogan Ephraim
Hogan didn't get that long on the field but looked lively both wide and upfront. He got the ball down and ran at defenders, who looked terrified at the skills and trickery of the former West Ham United forward.