QUEENS Park Rangers stutter once more as ten-man Everton put up a fine rearguard action to render the match a stalemate.
Fresh from the international break, Rangers cut out their perennial early set-back to take the advantage early on – Junior Hoilett the sole architect to run the length of the field to strike home with the aid of a deflection.
Everton were organised and typically strong throughout and had their leveller ten minutes before half time – Sylvan Distin rising unmarked to nod back off the upright, unfortunately it proceeded to canon off the back of Julio Cesar and nestled into the net.
The visitors troubled QPR when Phil Jagielka saw his header crash back off the cross bar, before Steven Pienaar committed three fouls in close succession to his detriment – with the lenient Mr Moss rather harshly dishing out two yellows.
Rangers were forced with withdraw both Armand Traoré and Ryan Nelsen, pre-meditated changes owing to a comeback from injury and a long trip back from international duty respectively – but withdrawing Bobby Zamora raised more questions than answers.
It is clear from post-match discussion that the R’s boss opted for caution against a ten-man side – an aspect that will undoubtedly disappoint supporters of a club that are still searching for their first win – roll on Arsenal next week.
Mark Hughes made three changes to the team that were defeated at West Bromwich Albion – Armand Traoré, Samba Diakité and Junior Hoilett came in for Clint Hill, Anton Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips – yet another shake up from the Rangers boss.
Julio Cesar started behind the back four Jose Bosingwa, Ryan Nelsen, Stephane M’Bia and Traoré. The midfield quartet comprised of Park Ji Sung, Esteban Granero, Diakité and Adel Taarabt – Hoilett played off Bobby Zamora in attack.
Everton began with Tim Howard behind a back line of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Sylvan Distin and Leighton Baines. Kevin Mirallas, Phil Neville, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar started across midfield with Victor Anichebe and Nikica Jelavic in attack.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v EVERTON
Once again the pre-match discussion surrounded the trivial as opposed to the more glaring talking point of QPR’s meagre early season form. Anton Ferdinand among others opted out of wearing sporting a ‘kick racism out of football’ t-shirt in protest of their handling of recent affairs.
Focus soon returned to the pitch as a typically well-organised Everton team took the field in W12 with an excellent set of results seeing them well-placed in the Premier League standing. By comparison QPR cast a desperate figure at the foot of the table.
Footballer as we know is an excellent leveller and within minutes Rangers had the advantage. An Everton corner was well fielded prompting JUNIOR HOILETT to roll his marker and surge forward with purpose and intent.
Bobby Zamora’s excellent decoy run pulled two defenders out of the shake-up before the Canadian sent a deflected effort looping beyond Tim Howard and into the back of the net – a rare nugget of fortune in a torrid opening to the campaign.
Everton were rocking and Rangers were rampant, aided by the skill of Adel Taarabt and the ambitious running of Armand Traoré. The pair combined to see the latter fire venomously across goal – narrowly evading the intentions of Zamora.
Referee Jon Moss tended to perplex and confuse with some strange decisions, not least the decision to hand Everton a free-kick in a prime position on the edge of the area. Baines left it for Nikica Jelavic who drew a smart save from Cesar.
The early goal seemed to temper Rangers with Park trying to calm his fellow players into keeping possession. The hosts remained ambitious if a little rough or erratic as Everton started to get a foothold in proceedings with a greater retention of the ball.
To their credit however, QPR reduced their better-placed hosts to mere scraps with Stephane M’Bia particularly impressive to calm play and bring fellow creative players into play. Ryan Nelsen’s thumping header helped culminate a good spell, heading over from a corner.
Despite being a goal to the good the game remained on a knife-edge and Baines relented once more, this time to Pienaar in terms of a free-kick delivery into the heart of the penalty area. It paid dividends as SYLVAN DISTIN capitalised on defensive indecision.
The delivery saw the Frenchman completely unmarked as he nodded against the upright from close range – unfortunately for QPR the ball ricocheted off the back of Cesar and into the back of the net – it was like the slow death waiting for Everton supporters to celebrate.
Minutes later a Baines corner saw Jagielka emerge from a crows of players to canon a header back off the cross bar. Jelavic appealed furiously for a rather innocuous spot-kick but contact was certainly not worthy of a spot-kick in this instance.
Rangers did have a couple of good chances before the break with Zamora holding the ball up expertly and allowing Hoilett a shot on goal – on this occasion the forward was wayward in his effort, flying high, wide and handsome of the left-hand upright.
Taarabt also had a trademark speculative drive before the break, his curling effort found the stand as opposed to the corner as he failed to re-create his West Ham magic as the Moroccan spurned the final opportunity of the half.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 EVERTON
Two fortunate goals and a speculative penalty appeal – Everton certainly had the better of the ball as the hosts seemed content to play on the break and test the Toffees back four with a blend of power and pace from Zamora and Hoilett respectively.
Jagielka was in the thick of the action after the break, when initially his drive flew wide of the right-hand upright before protecting his goal admirably at the other end. Tremendous play from Diakité saw him send a slide-rule pass for Park.
The man who can seemingly do nothing right had little riposte for his critics when the England international flew to defend his target with great valour and vigour. Steven Pienaar then received a caution for a late challenge on Hoilett – a merited card that would prove telling.
An ineffective Anichebe came off with Steven Naismith coming on and prompting a shift in shape for Moyes’ men. Five in midfield now as Pienaar senselessly barged Park in the back when the South Korean appeared to be in trouble.
By Mark Clattenberg’s standards against West Ham United that would have been enough to see him gone, but serving to highlight inconsistencies among officials – Mr Moss gave him a ‘final warning’ and allowed the South African to continue.
Rather brazen with his escape from punishment, Pienaar was back in the action once again, bringing down Bosingwa on the edge of the area. Even after holding court with captain Neville just minutes earlier the midfielder rather signed his own death warrant with his tackle and was sent off.
It was a soft foul to culminate a list of ill-advised challenges and while in isolation it may seem harsh, the official gave him every opportunity to redeem himself. Everton were now on the back foot but still managed to carve out opportunities.
The last thing QPR needed was more pressure and that is what this dismissal brought about – Baines’ cross was met tamely by Mirallas but nevertheless a warning sign for Rangers’ over-worked defensively line.
Slick interplay saw Granero clip over the top for Zamora, with the forward fairly stinging the palms of Howard striking directly at the American’s near post. Howard then ran down the clock with little recrimination from an official seemingly intent on the demise of the aforementioned Pienaar.
Mirallas had a livelier effort moments later when his rasping drive was fielded well by M’Bia who managed to glance it away from the target. Everton were starting to get on top of proceedings again with Jagielka forcing Cesar into a stop.
Jelavic’s wayward shot prompted Mark Hughes into a change. Fans had called for Djibril Cissé but given the situation of the game, many were surprised at the withdrawal of Zamora with Hughes content to remain with one up front.
It was well-advertised that Traoré would not last the game with Nedum Onuoha coming on in his stead. Corner after corner seemed to ensue with little in terms of opportunity falling to the beleaguered hosts.
Hoilett carved out an opportunity in the area only to draw a smart save from Howard. Granero reacted fastest to the follow-up and could only deliver a tame left-footed shot into the left hand upright. Had he not looked up before, he certainly had reason to look up after, with Cissé and M’Bia giving the Spaniard a telling glare in their respective positions.
It seemed that Nelsen’s international trip to New Zealand had meant that he could also not last the 90. Given that Everton took on their final striker, Hughes was criticised for perhaps not reacting accordingly and sending on a like for like replacement in Ferdinand.
Many were calling for an attacking player in Mackie and going less defensive at the back, but it seemed that Hughes was more content with holding a point than attempting to go for all three – a mentality that is never going to sit well with supporters of a club at the foot of the table.
Rangers pressed nevertheless, intricate play from Park saw a through ball find space between Cissé and Howard – the stopper came out on top to bravely stop the Frenchman. After moving wide, Hoilett found possession slim pickings.
He did however force Howard into another useful save coming in from the left and curling a drive that was well-fielded by the American. He did however continue to pinch the seconds from an unwise official in Mr Moss.
The time-wasting was fruitful for Everton, Mr Moss giving a mere four minutes of added on time. A pittance considering the amount of stoppages and time-wasting he was allegedly acknowledging – it’s no wonder that it remains prevalent.
The referee called time on the game with the visitors arguably the happier of the two teams given their numerical disadvantage. For winless QPR it’s another trip into uncertainty with a trip to the Emirates next up for Hughes’ men.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 EVERTON