Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

QPR 3 Stoke 0

Another promotion chasing outfit were knocked back at Loftus Road as the Rs produced an excellent display. Stoke forced a few corners early on and clipped the bar in a goalmouth scramble before Rangers managed to hack the ball clear. Just as I was thinking "there's goals in this game" Rangers moved it up the field and when Michele Leigertwood wasn't closed down 25 yards out he clearly had the same thought as me, that he might as well have a pop. He caught the half-volley beautifully and it beat Simonsen low to his left.

Within 20 minutes, "Legs" doubled his tally when Akos Buzsaky's deep cross was headed into space by Rowan Vine. Leigertwood was unchallenged but showed good technique to smash a 12-yard volley into the roof of the net. From then on Rangers dominated proceedings as the visitors, belying their lofty league position, were completely unable to keep the ball. Worse was to follow for them as Andy Griffin launched into a 50/50 with Hogan Ephraim, and referee d'Urso deemed it an aerial two-footed challenge and sent him off. While most reports called this "controversial" or "harsh", I had a very good view of it (from the other side of the pitch to the press box) and, while it might not have been a 100% straight red, I could see why he gave it, Griffin seemed to dive in with both feet off the ground. At the least it was a very reckless challenge from an experienced pro who should have known better.

Ricardo Fuller, Stoke's best player by a street, pulled out a scare right on half time when his shot scuffed off a post, although I think Damian Delaney might have had it covered chasing back. In the second half, Martin Rowlands continued to run the game for Rangers, and soon enough Stoke conceded a third that was reminiscent of our own struggles at the start of the season. The visitors made a complete hash of a free kick in a dangerous area, and after the Rangers wall had tackled each other to see who would bring it clear, they set off on a 4 vs 3 break. The chance appeared to have gone when Patrick Agyemang got the ball stuck under his feet, but he managed to free Buzsaky and the magic Magyar made no mistake from 10 yards.

When Simonsen had to pull out a fine save to deny Ephraim within 10 seconds of Stoke's kickoff, I think I saw Tony Pulis chewing his hat. Despite Pulis' fearsome glare from the sidelines, the rest of the game was a virtual training session. Lee Camp saved from the otherwise anonymous Glenn Whelan, and Simonsen also saved from Vine and Blackstock. As the game meandered to a close, the official man of the match was named as Rowan Vine, as selected by the committee of someone whose dog Leigertwood ran over once, a crack cocaine addict and Mrs. R. Vine. Hardly anyone cared though as Rangers continune to gel and show increasing promise, especially as Fitz Hall and Matthew Connolly forge a very useful centre-half partnership. And if West Brom and Charlton were rubbing their hands at this result, they should know that their own trips to W12 later in the season could be very testing indeed.

As for Stoke, anyone's going to find it difficult at Loftus Road with 10 men when Rangers are playing well, but even so I was surprised by the lack of fight from reputedly the most combative side in the division. To quote Roger Meyers Jr., they weren't proactive, they had no attitude and I don't know what they were in but it wasn't our face. Still, not our problem. Forza QPR.


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