Sunday, 16 September 2012

No Fear

The QPR revolution continued its evolution with an entertaining goalless draw against our hated neighbours from SW6, Chelsea.

Ferdinand snubs Terry
First of all the handshake debacle. Or as it turned out no handshakes. Rightly so, with the world media focused on the pre match handshake farce, Anton Ferdinand rejected the hand of the despicable John Terry and Ashley Cole. Ji Sung Park followed, commendably, with a double snub of Terry by also refusing to shake his hand on the coin toss too. Whether it was out of support for the Ferdinand brothers or maybe representative of the the rest of the QPR team, I believe the snubbing was justified. However, before I draw a line under the handshake issue, the situation could have been avoided if the complete and utter farce of meaningless, insincere handshaking did not form part of the pre match ritual. In reality this is another Premier League cash cow that serves the purpose of international exposure for the league's sponsor in front of a world wide television audience. Don't expect this pointless exercise to be abolished any time soon.

So on to the match. The European Champions were greeted with an unsurprisingly hostile reception from the QPR faithful, with Messrs Terry and Cole subject to a relentless afternoon of unflattering rhetoric from the R's fans and just as last season, everyone associated with Chelsea couldn't get away from Loftus Road quick enough. I don't think they enjoyed themselves in W12 today.

The international break, normally an unsettling element to a season, turned out to be a blessing as Mark Hughes and his staff had an extra week to work with his transfer window acquisitions. Hughes  didn't waste this time and got the game plan and team selection spot on for this fixture, opting to play 4 4 2 again and keeping AJ and Zamora together up front.

It became immediately clear from the opening moments, that this was a new, better, well organised side. A side with belief working collectively as a unit. Gone were the frightened rabbits that we saw for the first 35 minutes at the Etihad two weeks before. The back four lead by the magnificent Ryan Nelson pushed further up the pitch as the industrious midfield of SWP, Faurlin, Granero and Park hustled their Chelsea counter parts making it increasingly difficult for them to settle and in fact making the Chelsea back four play deep for much of the first half. The midfield were a revelation, tenaciously winning possession, being patient and keeping the ball, something we have not done consistently since our return to premiership football.

Chelsea as you would expect were dangerous at times but the R's coped and actually played with no fear in a confident and diligent manner and were always comfortable taking the ball forward and pushing Chelsea back. Playing this way took masses of pressure off the back four, which has been an ongoing problem and kept the vociferous and fervent R's supporters racking up the decibels at Loftus Road.

Chelsea had a couple of penalty appeals turned down. Terry and Nelson in the kind of tussle you see dozens of times every game and Hazard looking for a spot kick as SWP lunged in, none of which convinced Referee Mariner. Andy Johnson was more than a handful for Chelsea as we saw why he was once held with such high regard before unfortunately suffering an injury that saw him replaced by an eager and obliging Mackie. This was after Fabio had also picked up a knock that saw him replaced by Onuoha with excellent Bosingwa switching to the right. The enforced changes highlighted strength of the QPR squad as the changes didn't upset the game plan too much and we still had the likes of Taarabt, Hoilett, Cisse, Dyer and Green to choose from.

Julio Cesar had an excellent debut proving himself early on with a very good save from Hazard plus two or three other important saves during the course of the game. With a commanding presence he seemed to instill confidence in to a back four that looked more comfortable playing in front of him and he looks like he is going to be a solid keeper for QPR.  The R's continued to push forward with Park notably missing our best chance heading a great cross from Granero into Cech's hands and Zamora taking to long to finish after beating Cech to a misplaced back pass. This left Hazard to miss one last chance for Chelsea blasting high over the bar from eight yards.

In summary this was a very very good QPR performance. The R's actually edged the possession stats against the European Champions and Chelsea were never able to completely settle and never got forward in numbers as they like to do, mostly because they had to do most of the work further back up the pitch as our four man midfield won that battle today. QPR's ball retention, distribution and the work rate was arguably the best its been since promotion and more in keeping with our ambitions. Today, finally, QPR comfortably looked like and played like a good premiership side.(against quality opposition) Had it not been for the two forced substitutions in the first half I think Hughes would have utilised some of our options on the bench for the last 15 minutes and we could have got all the points. It is clear that we have turned a corner and this side is going to get better and better. So will the results. The midfield with Granero and Faurlin are quality, if the midfield functions, the defence will sort it self out, particularly with the influence of Nelson. Playing higher up the pitch at a higher tempo suits us and I like watching it.

True to form, QPR don't always get the credit they deserve and this was blatantly obvious on Match of the Days pitiful misrepresentation of the game. Needless to say it was not a fair reflection of the way in which QPR played. Still the more this goes on the longer the odds will be when backing QPR, because this QPR side are going to win lots of games this season. (Back QPR to win at Spurs on an Asian Handicap at +1 to +1.5)

We haven't got it right yet and there is still lots to do but there has been significant progress. This team has belief and is now playing with no fear and have overcome a massive psychological barrier. You can feel the excitement the players have, being part of  the QPR revolution. This is QPR though, so the ride will be bumpy. Buckle your seat belts, we're going for a ride and its going to be a good one.

Blog to you soon.

The Bush Ranger

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