Queens Park Rangers fell 1 - 0 to Cesena in their first real test of the pre-season tonight, squaring off against the Serie A side in San Marino, Italy.
The match featured many quality scoring opportunities for both squads as well as a few defensive miscues and breakdowns. It was a good workout for the club, facing the kind of skill level they saw last year in the Championship, and perhaps will face against the lower Premier League clubs like Wigan this year.
Despite the outcome, the R's played well and if they perform as they did last night they should be in good shape this season.
Danny Gabbidon shuts down a Cesena attack
The R's had a good chance early, as Bradley Orr got a ball into Jay Bothroyd just outside the keepers box. As he turned to shoot, a defender brought him down in a leg-locking tackle, but a penalty was not awarded.
Cesena's best opportunity came halfway through the first period, when a perfectly timed through-ball found Luca Ceccarelli on the left side, who slipped between Fitz Hall and Orr to fire a shot which Paddy Kenny was able to knock away. The ball came out to Clint Hill, whose clearance was blocked by midfielder Marco Parolo, who ducked a quick pass around Clint Hill to Roope Riski. Hill was left chasing him as Riski sprinted in on goal, centering the ball to Candreva, but the second shot was deflected high over the post from short range on what should have been a goal. The ensuing corner saw one final shot for Cesena, but Comotto's strike hit the woodwork and the Hoops defense recovered.
Cesena kept the pressure up in the first half, with Candreva striking a low shot from the top of the penalty area that just barely missed the outstretched arm of Paddy Kenny and rolled wide.
Taarabt tried to answer with a curling shot into the top left corner in the 43rd minute but couldn't quite bend it back down as it sailed just over the bar.
In the second half, Kieron Dyer broke into the top of the box and was fouled from behind in what should have been at least a free kick if not a penalty. The ref ignored the act however and the game remained tied at zero.
Adel Taarabt broke away in the 65th minute and was alone with the keeper on the right side, but tried to float a ball over him which never settled down and skitted harmlessly out of play.
In the 80th minute, Erjon Bogdani outran the QPR defense, tracking the ball down in the left corner near the touchline. He looked quickly for an outlet, and finding nothing, tried his luck at the far corner of the goal, striking a shot past Hall and over Kenny's head to put his club ahead one nil. Hall turned away from the ball at the last moment - either trying to give Kenny a better view or trying not to draw a handball. Whatever the reason, he could have closed down the angle and prevented the shot.
The Hoops had a chance to draw level in the game's final minute, as Martin Rowland's cross found Clint Hill just in front of goal. His shot floated over the keeper but a Cesena defender booted it away just before it crossed the line and sealed the home side's victory.
Several Rangers stood out tonight. Dyer looked fit and made himself known, getting involved several times in pushing up field and winning balls in his area. Gabbidon and Hall worked well together at the back, though there were a few shaky moments where communication and man-marking seemed to catch defenders looking for help, but those are pre-season things that will get sorted with more time playing together. Gabbidon looks like he'll find a lot of time in the first team. Faurlin and Buzsaky also did well in the game - Faurlin made a number of good passes and Buzsaky had some strong tackles and looked like someone out to prove a point. Not sure what kind of role he's going to find this year but he looks like a good sub if not more.
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