QPR's revamped team came out guns blazing against Wolves on Saturday, but saw their lead evaporate into another disastrous defeat. Djibril Cisse's foolish red card cost them a player and sapped the heavy momentum they'd begun with, but the remaining ten men on the pitch did little to decide the contest with the pressure on them. Heading through what was to be the soft part of their schedule, questions remain as to whether this squad can hack it in the Premier League.
The silver lining of this costly missed opportunity was the spectacular return of Adel Taarabt, who blazed through the Wolves' defence late in the game trying to force a draw. He couldn't do it all on his own however and the R's dropped three crucial points in a contest they looked to have easily in hand.
They'll be tested again with a visit to fellow relegation candidates Blackburn, and desperately need to regroup and focus on putting some distance between themselves and the drop if they hope to retain their status in the top flight.
The Super Hoops opened the match with an electric twenty minutes of football that saw new strike duo Cisse and Zamora putting the defenders on their heels as they cut left and right at the goal. Taarabt was on form, delivering some ambitious through-balls and controlling possession behind the attackers, demonstrating the class and vision that won him so much praise in last year's promotion campaign. Those efforts paid off in the fifteenth minute as Taarabt played the ball to Cisse, who fed Wright-Philips in front of net. SWP couldn't control it but the ball fell to the oncoming Zamora who fired it home for his first goal with the club.
For his part, Cisse looked worth every pound spent, rushing defenders and asking questions of the keeper. After Zamora's goal, Paddy Kenny released him for a promising end to end run to set up a cross, only to find that his teammates hadn't caught up with him. But seconds later, he was fouled from behind by Wolves Roger Johnson, and reacted with an emotional grab at the player's throat as referee Mark Clattenburg was arriving to deliver a yellow to Johnson. Cisse was immediately sent off, which cost him not only the rest of this match but the next three as well. He admitted his mistake afterward, citing his previous leg breaks as the source of his anger, but the damage had already been done.
The dismissal was a huge momentum shift, which the visitors eagerly took advantage of. While they had been disorganised and tentative before the incident, Wolves began to make their own runs finally and put the suddenly limp QPR squad on notice. Just before the half Matt Jarvis worked a tight give and go to earn Wolves' best opportunity, only to launch the ball into orbit.
Wolves picked up where they left off after the restart, quickly working possession deep into the QPR end and hammering attacks at Paddy Kenny. Kevin Doyle launched a cross that found Jarvis on the left flank, where he juked inside of Luke Young to fire across the keeper to draw his team level. Moments later Steven Fletcher nearly scored off a corner, his headed effort catching the bar to spare the crowd and QPR an instant one-two knockdown.
The home side was at a disadvantage but still looked lost and out of control, allowing the visitors to work over and around them and keep the pressure up. Wolverhampton never took their foot off the gas, culminating in Doyle's 72nd minute goal that seemed inevitable. The one-way traffic, poor marking and bad decision making for the R's was a reminder of their loss to Norwich the month before, in a similar game that saw them waste a one goal lead and push the self-destruct button following a red card. Wolves deserve credit for stepping up to seize the opportunity; but QPR had talent on the pitch that should've been able to corral a team that had only scored nine away goals up to that point.
The turnaround finally snapped the Hoops out of their funk late in the game, as Adel Taarabt attempted to take over on his skill alone. He began making strong runs near the penalty area, firing off shots and testing Wolves keeper Hennessey, but was unable to break through. He's been lambasted in this space and others in the past for being selfish to the team's detriment, but this was a moment that called for someone - anyone - to up their game for QPR. Taarabt showed his dribbling skills and that natural ability he brings to bear, creating several chances to even the score as the minutes ticked down. Unfortunately he had little in the way of support, and his efforts came to naught. Hughes pulled Zamora off late in favour of Rob Hulse, and while it’s a great story that he's still with the first team, he missed on a set up from Taarabt that could have been useful to a better finisher.
In the end, it is a disappointing loss because the points were there for the taking, but the same second half lack of intensity that has plagued QPR all season reared its ugly head once again. They have an inexplicable ability to lose themselves late in games, going away from the quick movements they start out with, or the controlled possession they've been able to execute at times this season. None of this happens in a vacuum and Wolves did their part to obtain necessary points and momentarily rise out of the bottom three, but the QPR players have to rue a match that should've been theirs.
The positive play from Zamora and Taarabt, and the pending return of Heidar Helguson from injury for this weekend's tilt up north put the R's in good stead. The open question is whether they can put a consistent effort together for 90 minutes and get the points they should be able to with the team they have. If they can stay on focus and keep the pressure on, this should be a good match for the team - but that was also the talk coming into the match at Loftus Road. For now it’s keep calm and beat Blackburn.
Come on U R'sss!