Mick McCarthy’s Wolves won their first league match since the first week of November by coming back from a goal behind against ten-man QPR at Loftus Road. Second-half goals from Matt Jarvis and substitute Kevin Doyle may have relieved the pressure on McCarthy, but he owes a huge dollop of gratitude to QPR’s new signing Djibril Cisse who was red-carded just after the half-hour mark for serious foul play allegedly following a pub football challenge from Roger Johnson. It was the turning point in the game as up until then QPR had played the visitors off the park and the home fans were left to rue what might have been.
Mark Hughes made two changes to the side that battled to a well earned point midweek at Villa Park. In came new signing Bobby Zamora at the expense of Rob Hulse, to partner Cisse upfront while in midfield Adel Taarabt, back from international duty in the African Cup of Nations, replaced Mackie in wide midfield. The midfield foursome was completed with Derry and Barton in the centre and Wright-Phillips out wide. New signings Onuoha and Taiwo were making home debuts in defence alongside Ferdinand and Young with Kenny between the sticks.
On a bitterly cold afternoon it was Rangers who started the brighter with new signings Cisse and Zamora hitting it off straight away and with some delightful link-up play with Taarabt and Wright-Phillips the future looked very bright. Within the opening 4 minutes, both strikers had had their first sight of goal. Firstly Taiwo sent a ball over the Wolves defence and Cisse trapped the ball instantly as it dropped over his shoulder, but his shot was slightly weak and Hennessey gathered comfortably.
Then within a minute, Derry came inside from the right-wing and slipped the ball to Zamora, who hit the target from 15 yards, but once again the shot lacked power and the save was easy. Wright-Phillips and Taarabt were also combining with the front two and there were some lovely passages of play, two of which ended with beautiful back-heels, but on both occasions the ball was intercepted by Wolves defenders. Then on 16 minutes, Rangers took the lead when Taiwo found Taarabt out wide. The Moroccan international, shimmied one way then the other and sent a beautifully flighted ball to Cisse who knocked it onto Wright-Phillips on the edge of the box. With his back to goal, he appeared to mis-control the ball, but then laid it into the path of Zamora who this time hit the ball with such power the ball went through the hand of Welsh international Hennessey for a debut goal.
Wolves had to re-group on 23 minutes when Frimpong went off injured and was replaced by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Frimpong was injured when he went in late from behind on Barton as our captain passed the ball upfield to Zamora and the Wolves player came off the worse. The referee didn’t even give the free kick, more of which later. Then on 31 minutes, Shaun Derry went in late as Richard Stearman cleared the ball upfield. The Wolves defender, in the right-back position, cleared a bouncing ball upfield and Derry came in with a high challenge and caught his boot on the sole of the Wolves player. The referee rightly gave the free kick, but only had words with Derry who it has to be said was very apologetic the moment he connected. But it was a booking every day of the week and the Wolves fans were rightly incensed.
A minute later and Cisse showed why Mark Hughes spent a hefty wedge of Tony Fernandes’s money on securing him from his woes in Italian football. Picking the ball up 35 yards from his own goal, he turned and left his marker for dead and set off down the left-wing. He raced the length of the pitch and sent in a dangerous cross which a defender managed to just intercept with Zamora lurking in the box and the ball rolled into the hands of a relieved goalkeeper.
Everything was going so well then on 33 minutes the whole game changed on the referee’s say so. Cisse received the ball near the half-way line and as he shielded the ball, Wolves’ Roger Johnson came in with a sliding tackle from behind with both feet and completely went through the back of Cisse’s legs. Cisse was furious and who can blame him. The Frenchman then decided to play a bit of handbags by first pushing the Wolves player in the back like a 7-year-old kid in the playground then grabbed his assistant around the neck. Johnson did not feign injury or dive to the floor and no Wolves player was ever in danger of serious injury. The same couldn’t be said for both achilles heels of Djibril Cisse. As we all know by now the clown who pretends to be a ref on a Saturday afternoon dished out two different coloured cards for both players. It was now the home fans turn to be incensed at the nonsense decision meted out by Mark Clattenburg.
For the remainder of the half, Paddy Kenny took an eternity to take every goal kick yet the referee said nothing to speed him up. So he kept on doing it, Six minutes later, Clattenburg incensed home fans further when Jamie O’Hara did a very good impression of a Virgin train by arriving very late when going in to tackle Joey Barton from behind. The referee saw the incident as he gave the free kick, but only had words with the Wolves midfielder.
Then I forgot that one of the new laws passed by our FA this season that states fouls on Joey Barton, however late or crude, are not punishable by brandishing any card. To compound the idiocy of the man in charge, right on half-time, Sebastien Bassong went in late on Wright-Phillips as he cleared the ball upfield and was booked. Again the Wolves fans seemed incensed and who can blame them when the challenge was almost identical to the one perpetrated by Derry earlier in the game. It seemed to me that the referee was ‘making up’ for his earlier mistakes, which in itself is even worse. The worst challenge seen all game was O’Hara’s on Barton yet three Wolves players were yellow- carded in the first 45 minutes.
With about 10 seconds remaining of the 3 added on, Wolves actually played some decent football when some good link-up play down the left saw Jarvis play a one-two with Foley, but his shot was always rising and almost ended up in Q Block. Half-time: 1-0. There was only one team in it, but they had an uphill struggle with only ten men in the second-half.
McCarthy brought on Kevin Doyle at the start of the second-half and he made an instant impact. A lot of fans were still returning to their seats, me included, when Wolves equalised. As I was walking out of the Blue and White Bar, I noticed on the TV that the game had restarted and before I could reach the door, I saw Doyle cross the ball from the right-wing and the ball eluded both Ebanks-Blake and Fletcher, but not Jarvis lurking at the back-post. Trapping the ball, he sized up Luke Young and Taiwo who was a tad slow to react and then shot between them and into the bottom right-hand corner. It was a cruel blow, but not as cruel as repeatedly showing the goal on the TV !!! I also noted that 53 seconds had elapsed on the School End clock.
For the next 10 minutes it must be said that Wolves absolutely pummelled our goal with first a decent shot by Fletcher that went just wide, then 2 minutes later the same player hit the bar with a close range header. Then an almighty scramble in our box saw Kenny diving at a forward’s feet and as the ball ricocheted towards the goal-line, Ferdinand had to hoof the ball out from under the bar. We then went straight up the other end and Taarabt beat a player and put a superb curling ball into the six-yard box, but with Zamora alone upfront he wasn’t in the right place and the ball went wide of the post for a goal kick. Yet still Wolves attacked and on 52 minutes Kenny pulled off a great save, stopping a thunderous 20-yard left-foot shot by Doyle.
Then on 55 minutes, the ten men almost took the lead with a free kick by Taarabt. We had hit Wolves on the break and as Wright-Phillips broke free 30 yards from goal, he was upended by the already booked Bassong. Not even a word from Clattenburg. From the free kick, Taarabt bent the ball over the five-man wall and the ball was heading for the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner when the ball suddenly swerved and went about 6 inches wide with the keeper well beaten.
But it was only a temporary respite as Wolves could sense the game was there to be won with the numerical advantage obviously and Doyle pulling the strings, they carved out three quick chances before the hour was up with Ebanks-Blake and O’Hara shooting wide, then Doyle having a close range header go narrowly wide as well. On 63 minutes, Mark Hughes made two changes with Hall replacing the injured Young and Traore replacing Derry in midfield.
Seven minutes later and the ten men succumbed to the inevitable when Doyle was found in the box from a flick-on by Ebanks-Blake and the Irishman worked a yard of space as he was shadowed by Taiwo and hit a low shot into the bottom corner of the net. Then 3 minutes later, Mark Hughes made his final change with Rob Hulse replacing goal scorer Bobby Zamora.
For the remaining 20 minutes, it was the ‘Adel Taarabt Show’ as he single-handedly tore the Wolves defence apart, time and time again to no avail. First he found Traore on the edge of the box and although the Senegalese international got a lucky ricochet, he kept his cool and hit a left-footed shot that the keeper saved comfortably. Within minutes, Taarabt had found himself shackled by O’Hara, but he shrugged him off with a drop of the shoulder and hit a 20-yard shot that the keeper did well to hold onto with Hulse homing in on any rebound.
Hennessey then pulled off a match winning save when he dived full-length to tip over a 25-yard pile driver from who else, Adel Taarabt, as the ball appeared to be going just under the bar. Had the ball gone in it would’ve been a contender for ‘Goal of the Season’ so it’s only right that Hennessey’s save should merit the ‘Save of the Season’, it was that good, and heartbreakingly so.
Adel wasn’t finished though as with 2 minutes remaining, he bamboozled two players for the umpteenth time in the game and with the outside of his right boot, hit an outrageous chip that had Hennessey back-pedalling, but the ball went just over the bar. In between those two efforts, Barton took aim from the edge of the box when a corner was cleared to Wright-Phillips who set up the QPR captain, but his shot ended up 6 inches the wrong side of Hennessey’s left-hand post.
Then as the clock went into 4 minutes added on, Anton Ferdinand popped up in the box, but his 15-yard shot sailed just wide of the post for the last chance of the game. Full-time: 1-2
Team: Kenny 6, Young 6 (Hall 5), Ferdinand 7, Onuoha 6, Taiwo 5, Taarabt 8, Derry 6 (Traore 6), Barton 6, Wright-Phillips 6, Cisse 6, Zamora 6 (Hulse 5)
MOM: Taarabt. Back to his best, proving that he can hack it in the Premier League
Referee: M. Clattenburg 6. Too inconsistent for my liking and changed the course of the game for all the wrong reasons. How come he could use his discretion for some challenges and not the main talking point of the game ? And what’s more dangerous, holding someone’s neck or scything them down from behind ?
Attendance: 17, 351 (including 1,649 Wolves fans)
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)