Team: Cesar, Traore (Onuoha), Samba, Hill, Bosingwa, Jenas, Hoilett (Taarabt), Townsend, Mbia, Remy (Mackie), Zamora
Subs Not Used: Green, Ben Haim, Park, Granero
It was a game marked by a number of ridiculous events. A 4.10pm kick-off time (why ?). Wigan striker Arouna Kone wearing gloves on a cool but hardly freezing spring afternoon in W12. Rangers striker Bobby Zamora (he of the chronic hip complaint) seeing red for the most amazingly agile but wild high-footed challenge on Jordi Gomez. And Stephane Mbia’s reckless injury time challenge which enabled Wigan to equalise moments before the final whistle.
What is arguably equally ridiculous is that so many of us felt gutted in the wake of this defeat-in-the-guise-of-a-draw. Had the game been an early or mid-season fixture, we probably would have felt that we had gotten out of jail.
On many other days, going down to 10 men so early in the game thanks to Zamora’s stupidity would have resulted in relief at a point hard won. But such was the significance of the result that it felt like another kick in the teeth for the R’s faithful. We had a chance to rescue some small chance of survival, some slither of pride from the season, but this group of hooped warriors just could not hold on.
For a team with a man advantage for most of the game, Wigan were possibly the most unambitious visitors to Loftus Road this season. Whilst often neat and tidy, they rarely looked menacing. The best chance Wigan had was a free header in the second-half, which Cesar athletically palmed away.
Rangers predictably huffed and puffed in the first-half, but got hold of it more in the second. Andros Townsend once again shone with his drive and pace, in spite of playing on the wrong side. Hoilett once again disappointed, appearing tardy to jump on opportunities and showing the same lack of dynamism that was present in his final games for the doomed Blackburn last season.
(Hoilett tussles with Emmerson Boyce)
Mbia had a game of great contrasts. At times he strides the field and encounters opponents with the energy of Patrick Vieira. At others, he is clumsy, oafish and untamed. He displayed more of the unsophisticated diving prowess which should have been eradicated from his game ages ago.
The midfielder capitalised on sloppy possession on 84 minutes, setting Loic Remy free to lash home a wonderful strike from distance. But the massed ranks of Wigan fans were sent back to their mini-buses happy after Shaun Maloney hit the goal with almost the final kick of the game – a free kick which came from a blundering agricultural challenge by Mbia. Adel Taarabt has been criticised for ducking in the wall and allowing Maloney’s shot to head past Cesar into the goal.
Of course, we weren’t relegated on Sunday afternoon, but what hurts so much about this result is the way it typifies our astounding ability to shoot ourselves in the foot when it really matters.
QPR made an encouraging start to their afternoon, with Remy’s half-volley from 20-yards striking the outside of the post. But they faced a mountain to climb when Bobby Zamora was sent off midway through the first-half. Despite the boos from the home crowd, there was no arguing with referee Phil Dowd’s decision. Zamora’s challenge on Jordi Gomez, with his foot so high that his studs crashed into the side of the Wigan player’s face, would have looked more at home in a martial arts movie than on the football pitch.
“I thought it was a sending off, it was a rash challenge,” Redknapp said. “He’s sorry, of course he is. Bobby’s a good lad. Having said that, it didn’t make that much difference, I think we would have beaten them with 11. They were bang average today. I think they are a good side but I’d be lying if I said they scared me today.”
Roberto Martinez described Zamora’s tackle on Gomez, which came as he received a throw-in, as “shocking”. The Wigan manager said: “It’s unfortunate because I know Bobby Zamora is not a dirty player, but the full boot is on Jordi Gomez’s face. His studs were at his eye level and unfortunately it was a red card. Jordi is okay. He was lucky the studs didn’t catch him in his eye.”
After an initial spell of pressure, however, Wigan were unable to make the extra man tell. QPR’s intense work rate helped to nullify the disadvantage, with the wing threat of Andros Townsend and the pace of Remy upfront posing a threat on the counter.
The one golden opportunity that Wigan were able to carve out, with substitute James McArthur afforded a free header from six yards after being picked out by Gomez’s cross, was repelled brilliantly by Cesar. With time running out, QPR began pushing for a winner. Remy headed just wide from Adel Taarabt’s delicious in-swinging cross, supplied with the outside of his right foot.
And the forward looked to have won it for QPR five minutes from time with a strike of astonishing quality. After blocking a Wigan Athletic free kick, the home side broke through Stephane Mbia. He drove forward and released Remy down the inside-right channel. The Frenchman’s first-time side-footed shot flew past Wigan goalkeeper Joel Robles and into the far top corner.
Loftus Road went wild, as the crowd sensed a victory that could have had the potential to propel QPR towards a miraculous escape.
However, when Mbia fouled Maloney just outside the area deep into added time, Wigan were handed one last chance. Maloney took it, bending the ball over the wall and into the top corner. There were suggestions that Taarabt had ducked to allow the ball past him, but Redknapp refuted those claims: “He didn’t duck, he jumped,” he said.
“He jumped up in the air. He jumped and turned his head and it went past his head. If you look he’s the only one jumping. I’m not going to blame Adel.”
While a point does nothing to help QPR, it is of some value to Wigan, although they will head into their FA Cup semi-final against Millwall next weekend still in the relegation zone, albeit on goal difference behind Sunderland.
Martinez said: “The sending-off affected us more than anything. You suddenly feel the responsibility of winning the game and the players took it too seriously. They didn’t enjoy their football at all, they were too pedestrian and we got cagey. But to get a positive result when everything is against us makes me extremely proud and allows us to go into the next seven games with something to learn.”
On another day this might have represented a good result for Queen’s Park Rangers. In the end, though, it was simply devastating.
Gordon Simpson – The Telegraph
(Chris Samba wins a knock-down in the Wigan penalty area)
The train back to Northolt was packed but we travelled in virtual silence. I had a couple of drinks when I got home but still couldn’t come to terms with the result. Although I had been realistic enough in accepting that staying up was a very tall order indeed, Sunderland had been defeated earlier and somehow, and against the odds, we had scored a spectacular late goal.
Loic Remy had rattled the post in the first-half and then once again we shot ourselves in the foot with the dismissal of Bobby Zamora after 20 minutes or so. From the angle from where I was sitting in the Upper Loft, I could see that his foot was very high, but it wasn’t until I watched it again later on MOTD 2 that I realised exactly what he had done. The other thing was the delay following the incident. We do have some reckless players at the club, but he would be one of the last that you would expect to do something like that !
Andros Townsend was incredible, twisting and turning his way through with ease and Remy’s goal looked even more amazing later on TV, powerfully side-footing the ball and curling it into the net from distance. From a similar position, Adel Taarabt had crossed a ball in with the outside of his foot which just evaded Remy.
Against the odds we were on the verge of an incredible victory, but then suffered the heartache of a Wigan equaliser in the 4th minute of added time.
(Shaun Maloney’s injury time free kick equaliser)
(Match photos provided by Sandra Sayce and used with permission)