A valiant Queens Park Rangers side took the title of London Masters as they defeated West Ham United to progress to the Masters Grand Final.
Rangers beat Fulham, knocked out Chelsea before beating West Ham United on penalty kicks with Michael Meaker netting the winning spot kick.
Queens Park Rangers are the London Masters 2009 as Danny Maddix held the trophy aloft – a sentimental moment for many of the players and supporters in the Wembley Arena as they progress to the Masters Grand Final.
The evening began with Andy Sinton expressing his quiet confidence that the side can perform in the competition after an absence of three years.
Admirable confidence indeed for a side that had only won two games previously in the competition, but with Tony Thorpe and Karl Connolly in their ranks they were hoping that the exuberance of youth would carry them through.
Sinton himself opted for Queens Park Rangers over Tottenham Hotspur but sat out the opening exchange as the R`s took on Fulham.
QPR v Fulham
In the opening five minutes Karl Connolly danced round the Fulham defence before striking the post twice in quick succession, shortly afterwards Bradley Allen nearly made the dominance tell as his effort came back off the bar.
Andy Sinton came off the bench to make the difference to hand the R`s the lead after some excellent work by Allen down the left. Allen worked himself a position to square to ball and the R`s number four rolled the ball right footed into the bottom right hand corner.
Rangers had a let off when Alan Neilson put the ball over the bar from close range but doubled their advantage when Meaker beat off two Cottagers defenders down the right before placing the ball into the top left.
Two became three and a brace for Meaker as he shimmied delightfully on the left side of the field before firing an unstoppable right footed drive into the top left hand corner. There was even time for a cameo of skill from Allen who took the ball delightfully on his chest before backheeling the ball in mid-air towards Connolly.
One concern for the R`s was Steve Palmer hobbling off with an ankle injury and forced to sit out the remainder of the evening. However Sinton`s early confidence was deserved as Ranger stormed to a 3-0 victory in the opening game.
Sinton himself was delighted with the result: “We totally dominated the game and it was well deserved – the lads did great.”
QPR v Chelsea
After seeing Chelsea and Fulham play out a 3-3 draw Rangers knew that a draw would be good enough to take them through to the London final.
Flashes of brilliance from Tore Andre Flo and Meaker weren`t enough to open the scoring as Tony Thorpe squandered an early opportunity from the trickery of Meaker. The opening period was reduced by the majority to speculative drives from distance with Bjarne Goldbæk and Sinton trying their luck.
Chelsea took the lead on the stroke of half time with Darren Barnard bending a left-footed effort in from the right which caught out Tony Roberts at his near post. Rangers were level after half time with Andy Tillson powering the ball past Roger Freestone, left completely unmarked by an ageing defence.
The noise level cranked up in the Wembley Arena with the vast majority of the crowd on Rangers` side – epitomised by the “Stand up if you hate Chelsea” chants that rung around the arena. Meaker`s excellent interplay with Connolly bought him some space but Freestone thwarted the impressive forward from close range.
Roars of anguish could be heard when Danny Maddix conspired to miss from close range after yet more flair and creativity from Meaker. Roberts` role in proceedings shouldn`t be underestimated however after he rolled back the years to tip Flo`s effort on to the bar and clawed away a close range effort from Barnard.
Tense final moments as referee Dermot Gallagher called a time out with four seconds remaining at a Chelsea corner – it was all on this. David Lee crashed his effort into the advertising barrier, the referee blew and Rangers progressed to the final.
FINAL: QPR v West Ham United
If QPR`s youthful side were to win the London section of the football masters they would have to beat last year`s winners, West Ham United. The Hammers had looked impressive throughout with former R`s Trevor Sinclair and Keith Rowland on target in their 3-1 win over Arsenal in the group stage.
Captain Danny Maddix spoke before the final: “It`s been different class (the support), hopefully our supporters will get behind us for the final because there`s a lot of tired legs out there.
“We weren`t expecting to get to the final but we`ll give it our best.”
Rangers were full of attacking intent in the early stages with Michael Meaker sprightly on the left, but West Ham were also useful going forward with Rufus Brevett getting up a head of steam to smash the ball into the upper tier.
A classy piece of skill from Trevor Sinclair almost gave the Hammers the advantage when he turned on a sixpence on the edge of the area and attempted to chip Roberts – but the keeper, as he had been all evening, was more than equal to it.
Brevett flashed a couple more across the target, before putting another shot into the top tier something which co-commentator Kit Symons referred to as ‘perfectly normal.` With that the half time whistle was blown and both sides were still deadlocked.
The Hammer began to turn the screw on a tiring QPR as they held the majority of possession and impetus. Roberts had to be alert to stop Danny Maddix putting through his own net before Maddix himself flattened Keith Rowland in an aerial challenge.
West Ham finally had the lead with four minutes of the second half gone when Sinclair enticed Roberts away from his line and Ian Pearce powered a left footed a left footed effort past the forlorn keeper. There was plenty of comedy to be had as Rufus Brevett hit the deck more times than Captain Birdseye.
With 54 seconds remaining Rangers drew dramatically level, Tony Thorpe received the pass wide left before cutting inside Brevett on the left and slamming the ball past Sasa Ilic. The game subsequently finished 1-1 with the game heading for the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
West Ham took first and Michael Hughes cannoned his effort back off the cross bar – advantage Queens Park Rangers. Karl Connolly couldn`t put the R`s infront as he re-encountered the Vauxhall Motors jitters to have his effort saved by Charlton hero Illic.
Sinclair put his effort low and left sending Roberts the wrong way, before Danny Maddix responded in kind to put in the bottom right hand corner. Ex-R Keith Rowland did Rangers a favour by skying his spot kick miles over the bar, and Ilic performed heroics to stop Thorpe putting the R`s infront for the first time.
The youngest player in the competition Kevin Horlock at 36 had his effort saved to Tony Roberts` left and defender Andy Tillson finally put the R`s infront for his second goal of the evening blasting it into the top right hand corner.
Rufus Brevett was calm and composed in slotting his effort low and left past Roberts. But it was Michael Meaker who won the masters for Rangers netting the ball into the bottom left hand corner. A dancing huddle between the Rangers maestros as they progress to the Masters Grand Final.
Tony Roberts won the overall player of the tournament but a player who ran him close was Michael Meaker who spoke following the final whistle: “I`m delighted for the boys.
“We came here to win it and we fully deserved it.”
He dedicated the win to injured defender Steve Palmer who ruptured his achilles in the first game against Fulham: “We had a few injuries today including Steve Palmer, the boys done it for him.
“It was an enjoyable experience and we will do it in the final.”
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