QPR Held By Sousa's Swansea
20/03/10 - 15.00
QUEENS Park Rangers were held to a point by Paulo Sousa's Swansea City this afternoon despite another spirited performance under Neil Warnock.
Sousa's side looked intent to break the game up and stifle the flow, while using the pace and power of Nathan Dyer and Shefki Kuqi respectively on the break.
After a drab first period the visitors had the lead when a Matt Hill error allowed the opportunist Dyer to place home coolly beyond Carl Ikeme.
Undeterred Rangers piled forward in search of the equaliser and it was Antonio German who bundled over the line from close range to draw matters level.
Swansea seemed satisfied with the point and invited Rangers onto them - it nearly paid dividends for the hosts with Matt Connolly's close range effort ruled out for offside.
A game blighted by a lack of attacking aspiration and endeavour from the visitors rarely threatened to spring into life but both sides will be happy with a point after an indifferent return for Paulo Sousa.
Neil Warnock made two enforced changes from the side after suffering his first defeat at the hands of Reading, with Damion Stewart suspended and top-scorer Jay Simpson sidelined with injury.
Carl Ikeme started behind a back four of Peter Ramage, Matt Connolly, Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Hill - Connolly moving inside to partner Gorkss to accommodate Ramage's return.
Alejandro Faurlín and Mikele Leigertwood were the central midfield pairing with Ákos Buzsáky returning to the right flank and Hogan Ephraim starting on the left.
Adel Taarabt started in behind the lone front-man Tamás Priskin with talent such as Lee Cook, Rowan Vine and Antonio German able to come from the bench.
Swansea went with a 4-5-1 formation with Dorus de Vries lining up behind a back four of Angel Rangel, Alan Tate, Ashley Williams and Ashley Richards.
A five man midfield consisted of Dave Cotterill, Mark Gower, Leon Britton, Guillem Bauza and Nathan Dyer with Shefki Kuqi the lone front-man for the Swans.
Ramage - Connolly - Gorks - Hill
Buzsáky - Faurlín - Leigertwood - Ephraim
Rangel - Williams - Tate - Richards
Dyer - Bauza - Britton - Gower - Cotterill
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City
All the pre-match talk surrounded Paulo Sousa's comments concerning Neil Warnock and QPR's style of play, but it was clear that there was little animosity between the pairing pre-match despite the rather bizarre selection of comments from the Portuguese boss.
Rangers started the game brightly, as is customary under the guidance of Warnock at Loftus Road. The R's boss was looking to pick up his third and Rangers' fourth home win on the bounce against playoff hopefuls Swansea City.
Adel Taarabt was looking lively in his new-role playing off Tamás Priskin. The Moroccan international was receiving the ball into his feet and looking to dazzle the Swansea rearguard as he did last season in the corresponding fixture.
It was he that carved out the first opportunity after collecting the ball from Peter Ramage. The Spurs loanee wasted little time to drive from midfield before shooting from distance and force Dorus de Vries to get down and make the save.
Another opportunity presented itself for the hosts with Gorkss playing the ball to the returning Ákos Buzsáky from deep. The Hungarian international had took a pot-shot from the edge of the area but it wasn't in danger of threatening De Vries' target.
In truth Rangers appeared to be carrying a passenger in Ipswich loanee Priskin. The lone front-man had been relatively anonymous in the early offing, but spurned a glorious opportunity as Buzsáky's centre was lashed wide by the maligned forward.
Swansea were doing their level best to stifle proceedings with Dorus de Vries taking his time with goal-kicks and the central defenders playing the ball across the back four, probing for gaps in the R's midfield.
When the opportunity presented itself however the Swans proved themselves potent in the QPR half - Rangers particularly struggling with the pace of Nathan Dyer down the right. The right-winger - who gave Gary Borrowdale a tough time at the Liberty - was now proving productive against Matt Hill.
Hill was caught out when Kuqi's deft flick found the fleet-footed wide-man in a useful position outside he area. He lofted it over the onrushing Ikeme but unfortunately for him the ball came back off the right hand upright and across the goal-mouth to safety.
Rangers continued to press forward in search of the opener, but owing to Swansea's style they were getting crowded out on the edge of the area and consequently caught out with the pace of Dyer on the break.
Another sizeable clearance saw Dyer challenge and get the better of Hill as he bore down on goal. Ikeme piled out of his goal once more, but a useful recovery from Hill saw him clip the ball away from the pacey winger, and Ikeme produce a top class save to prevent an unfortunate own goal.
It was clear to see that Sousa's methodical approach was still in evidence among the Swansea players with a strategy and style of play that while proving successful wasn't the most pleasing on the eye. Methodical-based with great tactical depth, but a distinct lack of cutting edge for the former R's boss.
Rangers system meanwhile seems to change and adapt with admirable defending at times combined with a great flair and passing movement in the opposition half - something Neil Warnock has demanded since taking over in W12.
Such passing and movement was in evidence moments later when Taarabt and Buzsáky linked up on the edge of the area with the Hungarian shooting down the throat of De Vries once more. It was Swansea that were creating the better opportunities however and nearly capitalised moments later.
Kuqi looked suspiciously offside as he displayed some deceptive pace down the right wing. With Ikeme well off his line, the fear would the Finnish international would shoot first time. He took the ball further in however and could only muster a tame shot straight at the Wolves loanee.
Swansea could have had a couple of goal had they had they discovered an eye for the target, but all too often the forwards were left isolated owing to the tactics and style of play the team purported in the opening period.
Rangers meanwhile were also lacking a finish, but by and large were crowded out of the area - something that the R's defence had sorely missed following the departure of Sousa. Since the Portuguese boss left Loftus Road the entertainment value has soared as the defence suffered.
Nevertheless the two sides went into the break level, and the game was finely poised for what would be an important second period. The first goal it seemed would prove crucial in this encounter as has been dictated in recent Swansea fixtures.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Swansea City
The second half got underway and it was the Swans that did the majority of the early pressing with a succession of corners. Ikeme had to be alert to tip a Mark Gower corner behind as it threatened to dip into the top left-hand corner.
Rangers were finding it difficult to get a foot-hold and carve out genuine opportunities in the face of great defensive numbers. Leigertwood's effort from distance rather summed up the calibre of effort that blighted the R's progress with De Vries saving comfortably.
Swansea earned themselves a free-kick on the edge of the Rangers penalty area with David Cotterill lined-up over the set-piece. An interesting tactic ensued as Swansea players piled franticly towards the wall as Cotterill bent the ball straight at an unmoved Ikeme.
Just when it seemed that Rangers were starting to assert their authority and stamp out the threat of Dyer, it was the Swans who took the advantage with a large slice of fortune, a gift coming from the R's defence.
A hopeful ball from Bauza over the top for Dyer was petering out only for the ball to strike the back of Hill - who in truth should have been facing up. Nathan Dyer lept on the opportunity and rolled beyond Ikeme into the bottom left hand corner - with the 'keeper in no-man's land.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Swansea City
Rangers then made the change that was planned prior to the goal with Antonio German and Lee Cook taking the place of Hungarian duo Ákos Buzsáky and Tamás Priskin - the latter going off with ironic cheers ringing in his ears after what was another in a string of ineffective displays.
The R's immediately looked more sprightly in the final third with German linking up well with Taarabt and Cook as they searched for an equaliser. Cook's far post cross saw Hill nearly atone for his earlier error, but in truth it was a little too far for him to make genuine contact - nodding the ball wide of the target.
The game seemed to have turned on its head since the Swansea goal, whether that was to do with the changes or the Swans' mentality was open to debate, but Rangers seemed intent on drawing matters level to crown their useful second half showing.
Despite their endeavour it seemed they were coming up against a brick wall in the Swansea defence with virtually ten-men behind the ball and searching for the likes of Kuqi and Dyer on the break depending on who stayed forward for the visitors.
The pressure was mounting, but in truth the Swans rearguard was looking comfortable despite the tricky running of Cook and the excellent distribution from Faurlín in the middle. They didn't account for the potency of a goal-poacher in the Rangers line-up.
Taarabt's corner was swung in and Vine managed to touch back for Antonio German, with the forward gleefully slamming the ball home from close range. It won't be the most vintage goal of his career but they all count as Rangers hauled themselves level.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Swansea City
At this point there was only one team in the game with Rangers rampant and poised to take the three points. Speculative drives from Faurlín and Leigertwood were all that the hosts could muster in truth in terms of genuine opportunity.
Rowan Vine, who was introduced for Hogan Ephraim, was looking in rejuvenated form down the right as he gave Angel Rangel a torrid final few moments. It was however an important decision by stand-in official Carl Boyeson that nearly handed Rangers the lead.
A shot from the edge of the area was blocked by the arms of Ashley Williams, and in truth he could have little complaint with his arms above his head. Taarabt stepped up and the ball flicked up off the wall.
As Matt Connolly nodded the ball home beyond De Vries, he was adjudged to be offside - a decision that could be questioned as when the ball was played he was most certainly onside and in the second phase the ball came off a Swansea City player.
Nevertheless the complications surrounding the offside law has had fans, officials and television pundits baffled for some time and will continue to do so. Unfortunate for QPR whose supporters were still happy with the point following the final whistle.
Swansea gave Rangers a stern test and possibly Warnock's toughest since taking the helm at W12, but their lack of attacking desire played into Rangers hands towards the end, and despite being in a commanding position the Swans nearly let the game slip alltogether.
As mentioned all the talk pre-match was around Neil Warnock's style of play, but surely Mr Sousa's cautious and tactically engrossed style must come under the spotlight as Swansea never looked like kicking on after they opened the scoring.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Swansea City
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Mikele Leigertwood, Ákos Buzsáky (Lee Cook 58), Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Alejandro Damián Faurlin, Matt Hill, Hogan Ephraim (Rowan Vine 73), Tamás Priskin (Antonio German 58), Adel Taarabt.
Dorus de Vries, Ashley Williams, Alan Tate, Leon Britton, Nathan Dyer (Tom Butler 84), Angel Rangel, Guillem Bauza, Mark Gower (Craig Beattie 89), Ashley Richards, Shefki Kuqi, Dave Cotterill (Cedric Van der Gun 66).
His aerial ability and overall passing play continues to improve game on game and his confidence must now also be growing after a consistent run in the side.
Warnock has undoubtedly noted his great potential as a starting central midfielder, and if Mikele Leigertwood could be as consistent alongside him then the R's would have an excellent pairing.