Rs Clip Bluebirds Wings
08/11/08 @ 3.00pm
Rangers inflicted the first away defeat on Cardiff City, who had two players sent off: Purse within the first half hour of the gam, and Comminges late in the second. This was not a vintage display by the Rs - it was more a battling performance with "patience" the key word of the day.
Cardiff, to their credit, never let their one-man disadvantage hamper their efforts, as they retained two up front throughout the game. However, even though the statistics suggest they had slightly more possession, they could not make anything of it, as Rangers` defence one again held firm.
And as Rangers tried patiently to press home their one-man advantage, they finally cracked the Bluebirds` stalwart defence on 80 minutes with a bullet header from substitute Gavin Mahon from an inch-perfect cross from Peter Ramage.
Rangers made several changes to the line-up that started against Ipswich last weekend. Parejo did not feature, whilst Delaney was dropped to the bench. Connolly filled the left-back role vacated by Delaney and Ramage, back into the team after recovering from an injury which had kept him out of the line-up at Ipswich, was at right-back. Ledesma started and Buzsaky dropped to the bench - seemingly a straight switch. Ainsworth opted for a 4-4-2 formation, with Blackstock and Di Carmine partners-in-crime up front.
Dave Jones was forced into several changes. With Bothroyd and McCormack injured, Jones brought in Eddie Johnson and new loan-signing Michael Chopra to start together up front. Miguel Comminges started in defence at the expense of Paul Parry, who was dropped to the bench. Whittingham and Ledley took up the wide midfield positions with the central berths being filled, as usual, by McPhail and Rae. Heaton was in goal behind McNaughton, Purse, Comminges and Roger Johnson.
Kick off: Queens Park Rangers v Cardiff
The match started evenly with the Bluebirds having the opening chance. In the first minute of the game they won a corner which McPhail took but Roger Johnson couldn`t convert his header which sailed over the bar.
The Rs soon had a chance of their own, as Ledesma`s through-ball found Blackstock, but his first touch let him down and the chance was gone. Ledesma himself had a shot which flew wide of Heaton`s right-hand post, before Cardiff tested Radek Cerny in the Rs` goal. McPhail played a one-two with Whittingham and unleashed the return ball forcing Cerny into a good full-length save. Damion Stewart then headed over the Cardiff bar for the Rs.
Then the game changed dramatically! Referee Probert who had, until then, had a relatively quiet game, saw fit to send Bluebird defender Darren Purse off after his challenge on Lee Cook. Everyone around u, in the South Africa Road stand wondered why Probert had brandished the red card - at worst, we all felt the challenge was worthy of a yellow.
As soon as the challenge had come in, Rangers seemed to have a good break on. But when Probert blew-up for the foul, the crowd were incensed as they thought a good opportunity had been spoiled. And that is when Probert drew out the red card. At first, those around me thought he had brandished the red because of the howling of the crowd; but it seems it was for a high tackle.
Not having seen the challenge close up, being in the S.A.R., I can only say that it seemed that, even though Purse won the ball, he came in high on Cook; and so twice in as many matches Loftus Road witnessed a player being sent off for dangerous play.
To his credit, Jones decided to sacrifice midfielder Joe Ledley, rather than a striker, as Ainsworth had done himself ten day`s ago against Birmingham. Defender Gyepes came on in his place and the shape of the team changed to 4-3-2. It was a bold decision, but one that seemed to pay-off as Cardiff continued to take the game to Rangers after a period of re-adjustment.
Meanwhile, Ledesma tried a ferocious half-volley from outside the area, but it was straight at Heaton, who caught and held the ball well. Blackstock then had a chance in front of goal, but a well-timed tackle from Gyepes spoiled the chance.
Cardiff were breaking quickly and effectively. So it was no surprise that, just before the half-time whistle, Whittingham had a shot which flew inches over Cerny`s bar, giving lie to the fact that the Bluebirds were now down to 10 men.
Half time: Queens Park Rangers 0 - 0 Cardiff
The second half started with Cardiff continuing where they had left off in the first half - attacking the Rangers goal. Eddie Johnson tested Cerny before Ramage went down to the Loft End and smashed the outside of Heaton`s post with a mishit cross.
On 55 minutes, Ainsworth brought on Buzsaky for Ledesma and the Rs changed their shape to accommodate the Magical Magyar`s preference for playing in the centre midfield, as they went 4-2-2-2! Buzsaky and Cook were now playing just behind Blackstock and Di Carmine, with Rowlands and Tommasi behind them in front of the defence.
The substitution seemed inspired, as Buzsaky quickly came into his own, threading a ball to Connolly who went on to set up Samuel Di Carmine for a great shot from the right-hand side, which just went over Heaton`s bar.
Problem was Cardiff`s defence were holding firm, frustrating all the Rs` efforts as Rangers continued to try to turn their numerical advantage into a goal.
Sitting near the Director`s Box as I do, I then witnessed an extraordinary turn of events. Flavio Briatore seemed to be yelling at Gianni Paladini to get a message to Ainsworth to make another substitution! This may just be us all "interpreting" events in the way we wanted to, since Mahon was already stripped and ready to come on and Patrick Agyemang was also warming up, soon to be introduced after a few weeks` absence from a pelvic injury. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable to watch!!
So, on 67 minutes, Mahon came on for Tommasi, and this was followed by right-back Ramage having another shot-cum-cross saved by Heaton. And on 71 minutes, Agyemang followed Mahon onto the pitch. At that point, Buzsaky reminded everyone why he is such a dangerous central midfielder, as he made a stunning turn followed by an even more stunning shot just outside the area, which Heaton could only parry. The ball fell to Agyemang who shot wide from close-up - which was lucky seeing as how he was offside when he received the ball!
Cardiff went down the other end and Michael Chopra went down in the box under a challenge from Damion Stewart. Another referee on another day may well have given a penalty for what clearly was not a penalty! Thankfully, Probert didn`t think there was a foul either!!
The home crowd was exhorting the Rs to greater things and it was duly delivered. First Buzsaky passed the ball expertly to Peter Ramage who had made another run down the right flank. Ramage took his time and sent in an inch-perfect cross. Gavin Mahon rose higher from the left-hand side of the box than anyone else in the area and his looping header sailed over everybody, including Heaton, into the far right-hand corner of the goal.
Queens Park Rangers 1 - 0 Cardiff
More pain was then inflicted on Cardiff. Two bookings inside two minutes for Miguel Comminges, the first for an overly hard tackle and the second for dissent, saw the Bluebirds down to 9 men! Although Rangers tried to make the most of Cardiff`s ill fortune, Cardiff themselves tried manfully to carry on attacking. And it nearly paid off.
They one a free-kick near the Rs` penalty area. At that point, Heaton left his goal and joined the Cardiff attack to add numbers as they looked for a last-gasp equaliser. The ball was floated in by Whittingham and Roger Johnson rose to head the ball. It looked like it might be going in, but Cerny somehow turned the ball round the corner of his left-hand post.
And then, to the relief of the Ranger`s fans, Probert blew the final whistle.
Final whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1 - 0 Cardiff
QPR:Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Dexter Blackstock, Peter Ramage, Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook, Damiano Tommasi (Gavin Mahon 67), Emmanuel Ledesma (Akos Buzsaky 55), Samuel Di Carmine (Patrick Agyemang 71).
Cardiff City: Tom Heaton, Kevin McNaughton, Gavin Rae, Darren Purse, Peter Whittingham, Eddie Johnson (Paul Parry 72), Stephen McPhail, Roger Johnson, Miguel Comminges, Joe Ledley (Gabor Gyepes 29), Michael Chopra.
But Lee Cook did not stop running or trying from the first whistle to the last. Even when his crosses didn't quite reach their target, or he lost the ball, he went looking to regain the ball and try again.
He is my star player for 100% effort!
Radek Cerny - 7/10
Damion Stewart - 7/10
Fitz Hall - 7/10
Dexter Blackstock - 5/10
Martin Rowlands - 6/10
Peter Ramage - 6/10
Matthew Connolly - 8/10
Lee Cook - 8/10
Damiano Tommasi - 6/10
Emmanuel Ledesma - 7/10
Samuel Di Carmine - 6/10
SUB: Akos Buzsaky - 8/10
SUB: Gavin Mahon - 7/10
SUB: Patrick Agyemange - 7/10
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