Paddy Kenny was called on early and often, and despite the final scoreline, he made some spectacular saves to keep his side in it. In just the second minute, Tottenham showed great form, moving Luka Modric into position to free Rafael Van Der Vaart into the penalty area, who rifled a shot from outside the six yard box that Kenny coolly knocked down. The Dutchman tested him repeatedly, forcing a fantastic save early in the second half, and another later on that Kenny bobbled away, only to dive in and stop Gareth Bale on a second attempt. He worked tirelessly throughout the match to keep his team in the game.
Tottenham's pacy attack was on the move all match, and they showed off exception passing ability. Spurs deployed a lethal combination of vision and aggression, which the Hoops midfield and defenders weathered, but could not overcome. Whether it was the better skill of the opposition, or their recent experiences in the top European leagues, they presented a formidable opponent against which Rangers held their own.
In response, QPR delivered a better performance than their recent run of play, particularly in transition and build up. Where they lacked polish once again was in the finishing. The R's were able to gain some good positions, but seemed lost with what to do once there. In fits and starts, this team is improving, but not yet where they need to be on tactics and form. Eight goals in ten league games is testament to that fact.
Bale opened the scoring in the 20th minute, taking a quick feed from Rafael Van Der Vaart and drilling it across the keeper's body for the score. Tottenham pressed four men up from a goal kick, batted passes smartly inside the box and caught the defenders out. The speedy Welshman rocketed up the left flank unobstructed and was in perfect space to convert. He was unattended a few minutes later in front of the net but skied a sure goal to keep things tight in the early going. The defence was under duress throughout the match, but gifting one of the other team's key players so much freedom was a sign of things to come. The defence has had good performances this season, but this wasn't one of them. Van Der Vaart's 33rd minute goal was evidence of that.
Ledley King drove a long shot in that was deflected, finding Van Der Vaart with yards between him and anyone in a mango jersey. Granted, the ball was deflected to him in a perfect position - but the sight of Traore and Gabbidon far off to the right of the striker, with no one else out there to guard, was cringe-worthy. Regardless of whether they thought there was an off-side call coming, they simply cannot allow a skilled player like that to be roaming in a dangerous area without anyone near him. VDV neatly controlled and fired past a helpless Kenny to put the Lilywhites up by two.
Danny Gabbidon was pressed into action in his first game back from injury, subbing for Fitz Hall who suffered a hamstring strain early in the match. He showed a bit of rust from the long absence early on, getting beat on a run by Scott Parker before battling back to break up the attack. He came away with some important moments as the game progressed, including a key block to deny Emmanuel Adebayor.
Supporters have to wonder whether Joey Barton is properly cast as a winger, featuring on the right side for the majority of his time in the squad since his arrival from Newcastle, where he was a central midfielder. The experiment with him as a play-maker from the wide position has not borne much fruit, and time will tell whether Warnock sticks with him there or perhaps switches him elsewhere. Faurlin might fare better in the wide role, bringing a bit more pace and creativity to the wing. Barton's defensive ability on the wing is useful, but doesn't add much punch to an already limp offense. His counterpart on the left side, Shaun Wright-Philips had another good day at the office, showing off the speed and ability that made him such a steal from Manchester City. He tracked down a ball on the goal line in the 56th minute and centered it to Heidar Helguson, who launched it over the bar in one of several good chances that went awry. The R's came out much more energetic in the second half, and put the home side on the defensive, led by Bothroyd and Mackie who replaced Shaun Derry.
It's becoming a habit to knock Adel Taarabt in this space, but this was another fixture that saw little of him. The youngster wants to be the team’s marquee player, and at times has given glimpses that he might be up to the task, but more and more he disappoints. Typically cast as the central attacker behind the striker, he should be in a position to use his superior ball skills to create opportunities and take chances on goal, but he frequently makes poor choices with his passing or seems constrained by trying to set someone else up than taking more on himself. His teammates need to give him something to work with - both getting the ball into him and giving him good outlets, but he also needs to show more quality in possession or this trend of him being shut out of matches will continue. He struggled to make an impact against Spurs and was subbed for Jay Bothroyd at half time.
For his part, Bothroyd netted his first goal of the campaign from a corner in the 62nd minute. Barton delivered a great ball to Helguson on the left side of the box, who in turn headed it toward goal where the leaping Bothroyd nodded it in over Assou-Ekotto. It was a bright spot for the QPR set piece strategy, which has been atrocious in many games, with balls over hit or players nowhere to be found when corners or free kicks are delivered. For once they were able to take advantage of a good opportunity and it put them within striking distance of coming level.
Luke Young promptly fouled Bale in a dangerous spot, gifting Tottenham a free kick. Kenny initially stopped VDV's curling strike, but lost control of it. In the scramble to regain possession, Adebayor flicked the rebound to Bale who was home free for another goal before being robbed by a diving Paddy Kenny. It was an electric moment and keyed on the Hoops who kept the pressure on the home team, working better passes and moving the ball well. However, Bale dashed the hopes of a comeback in the 72nd minute with his second goal, a fantastic fading shot that bent down over the arms of the keeper.
QPR made a furious attempt to get level as the match wound down but their luck had run out. Ale Faurlin's free kick from just outside the penalty box couldn't stay down. Wright-Philip's fade across the face of the goal curved the wrong way. Mackie fed a ball across the goal at the death but a defender booted it away from danger. A corner in the final moments of stoppage time found Jay Bothroyd who fired on net, but Bale cleared it from the line with a denial that sealed the loss for the R's.
Overall, not a stellar effort, but an improvement. QPR played better than they did against nine man Chelsea, despite the sour outcome. There were positive moments in attack, and better team play that hopefully can continue. The defence is still evolving, at times asleep at the switch and others quick to break up any promising advances. Credit them for continuing to show heart and battle for everything they had until the final whistle. Warnock's men have work to do, but their form is improving to a respectable level.