A DEBUT goal from Loic Remy saw Queens Park Rangers claim a point against a dominant West Ham United side at Upton Park.
The Frenchman latched onto a fine through ball from Adel Taarabt to caress beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen to score rather against the run of play, as the Hammers upped the ante.
Marouane Chamakh called for a penalty when challenged by Shaun Wright-Phillips as West Ham pressed for the leveller, eventually it would come in the second period.
Chamakh’s replacement Carlton Cole saw his effort parried by the inevitably impressive Julio Cesar only for Joe Cole to tap home into an open goal and set up a grand stand finale.
The hosts toiled, Rangers battled and despite their inability to retain a creditable portion of possession, they walked away with a share of the spoils in East London.
Harry Redknapp elected to restore Julio Cesar to the starting line-up at the expense of Rob Green, with a back four of Nedum Onuoha, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen and Fabio da Silva. Stephane Mbia and Shaun Derry operated in the middle with Adel Taarabt, Jamie Mackie and Shaun Wright Phillips playing in behind debutante Loic Remy.
The Hammers started with Jussi Jaaskelainen behind a defence of Guy Demel, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and Joey O’Brien. The midfield trio comprised of Mark Noble, Mohamed Diamé and Kevin Nolan, with Matt Jarvis and Joe Cole playing wide of Marouane Chamakh.
KICK OFF: WEST HAM UNITED v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The weather had put pay to a good proportion of the Saturday fixture list with Friday’s blizzard rather inevitably grinding Britain to a halt. This game however was never in doubt, with all areas around the ground fully cleared as well as a pristine playing surface.
Harry for the second week in succession facing an old club and hoping for a similar if not better outcome and what better way to bolster your ranks than with Loic Remy – a former West Ham United target.
Luckily for QPR, Julio Cesar started the fixture in fine fettle, firstly getting a touch on a cross that flashed across the face of the goal before denying Kevin Nolan from point blank range. A fine delivery from Joe Call saw Marouane Chamakh climb highest before Nolan placed right at the Brazilian stopper.
Still the Hammers pressed, pacey wide-man Matt Jarvis had the better of Nedum Onuoha when he managed to engineer an effort on goal. Once again, Cesar was equal to the effort, fielding it at his near post.
Mohamed Diamé – a reported QPR transfer target – managed to burst his was through a battling defence with just over ten minutes on the clock. His resultant right-footed drive was expertly blocked by the improving Onuoha.
With all signs pointing towards a likely opener, QPR had different ideas as to who would snatch in, with a precise, pin-point counter-attacking move, putting the Hammers to the sword and handing Rangers an unlikely lead at Upton Park.
Taarabt latched onto a loss in possession in midfield to time a fine through ball for the onrushing LOIC REMY. The Frenchman beat the offside trap before taking a touch and placing expertly beyond Jaaskelainen to hand the visitors a useful lead.
It was almost Remy’s first touch in English football, and with some questioning how he would adapt to the game, one chance and a goal would surely have critics thinking again with an expert display of finishing prowess.
A flurry of away pressure then ensued, with Shaun Wright-Phillips lashing an effort wide of the right-hand upright. Jamie Mackie then saw his shot blocked before Taarabt found the arms of Jaaskelainen with an effort from distance.
The Hammers continued to press a battling Rangers defensive unit with a customary collection of direct passing and physical tactics in the penalty area. At the head of this unit was Chamakh however, who rather flattered to deceive at the peak of a 4-5-1 formation.
His appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears for referee Howard Webb – when he tussled with Clint Hill and latterly Wright-Phillips before tumbling and gesticulating at referee Webb. While shirts were being held all around, it would take a brave man to give spot kick in that situation.
The physical Hammers who enjoyed a good tussle and fight for the ball were left aghast by the perceived foul on Chamakh. Kevin Nolan meanwhile continued to deploy his customary physical tactics on ‘keeper Cesar from set-pieces, also to little punishment.
Rangers meanwhile sought to double their advantage, albeit tentatively, with Taarabt engineering an effort of note. Unfortunately for the leading visitors it flew high, wide and handsome for the last genuine opportunity of the half.
HALF TIME: WEST HAM UNITED 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The two sides resumed battle in a keenly-fought encounter at Upton Park. Remy sought to double his tally for the afternoon when he engineered some space on the right flank, before seeing a shot blocked by O’Brien from point-blank range.
Joe Cole – who turned down the opportunity to sign for QPR – then tested Cesar, first with an errant cross towards the far post, before a more powerful drive was excellently fielded by the Brazilian at his near post. The Hammers were starting to up the ante.
Anarchy ensued in the QPR penalty area when Derry’s uncharacteristically poor clearance fell to Chamakh in the heart of the area. The Moroccan saw his tame effort blocked by the Rs defence while Diamé saw his shot charged down to further stifle the Hammers.
It pinballed around the penalty area before Diame’s second effort in quick succession was a wayward drive that saw Nolan nod narrowly over from point-blank range. Useful reactions by the former Newcastle United man who failed to put a difficult effort on target.
Rangers were rapidly becoming their own worst enemy, gifting possession back to the hosts at every opportunity and struggling to structure any calibre of counter-attacking threat – it was truly one way traffic with the Hammers on top and looking likely to level.
Wright-Phillips was withdrawn with Armand Traoré coming on in a like for like change. The Frenchman taking up a role wide left in front of Fabio da Silva, who himself was performing admirably in light of such a physical battle.
Another tame header from Chamakh was enough for Sam Allardyce, who threw on Carlton Cole at his expense. While the Moroccan continued to spurn useful chances, the competitive Cole would surely give the Hammers that extra cutting edge up front.
Another change ensued which saw a shift in personnel. Jay Bothroyd came on for Jamie Mackie in a surprising change from Redknapp. It prompted Remy – given no service in the front-line – to go wide right in support of the midweek FA Cup goalscorer.
Rangers resistance finally relented when Jarvis once again played architect down the left. His run and cross evaded Onuoha once more for Carlton Cole to beat his marker to the ball and force an excellent reaction save from Cesar.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian JOE COLE was left unmarked inside the six yard box and placed home the leveller with consummate ease. If at first you thought the Hammers were attacking with intent, they would now force the issue further.
Rangers were offering very little in riposte, a few fleeting breaks amounting to little as they seemed unable to retain possession of the ball and persistently gifted it back to their buoyant counterparts – an ill-fated exercise indeed.
The expansive Taarabt was withdrawn at the expense of the workman-like Park Ji Sung. Another deep cross from the Hammers saw Cesar mauled between his sticks, unnoticed by official Webb. The goalkeeper was then heavily reliant on Mbia to put in a manful block from Reid’s rasping drive.
The Hammers pressed further, even rounding Cesar at one point only to be denied by more manful QPR defending. Reid rounded off the afternoon by sending a weak header over Cesar’s target as the two sides shared the spoils.
Rangers by no mean putting in a fantastic display, but claiming a point from Upton Park should certainly be viewed as a point gained after a heart-stopping 90 minutes that puts QPR five points from safety as Aston Villa threw away a two goal advantage at West Bromwich Albion.
FULL TIME: WEST HAM UNITED 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS