A Point From a Gran-d Performance
The big Derby Day arrived yesterday as Rangers' played the host to their most hated rivals Chelsea. The spotlight was on a the handshakes before the game and whether Anton Ferdinand would shake the hands of John Terry or Ashley Cole. We were about to find out.
As this was the closest home game to Sam's birthday where all the gang would be in attendance she had arranged for a meet up at the White Horse before the game and met up with Luke, Lofty, PK, Lorna, Jointy and Iceman from my knowledge. Myself and Jess arrived at Loftus Road at 2.30 so missed out on the pre-game warm up.
The gang assembled in our seats awaiting what would happen with the handshakes and this pictures sums it up
In refusing to shake John Terry and Ashley Cole's hand, I cannot say I blame him at all. Would you shake the hand of someone that disrespected you? I could really go off and rant away but I have done this before so do not wish to bore anyone with this again.
On to the game.
Mark Hughes made one change from the team that started at Manchester City two weeks ago. Julio Cesar made his R's debut as Rob Green dropped to the bench.
Chelsea had the first clear chance of the game as Ramires' pass found Hazard unmarked and the Belgian's shot was fired straight at Julio Cesar, who stayed big for as long as possible and managed to deny Hazard.
Five minutes later and the R's had their first real opportunity, Fabio and Park combined before picking out Bobby Zamora and his shot was gratefully clutched by Petr Cech.
Minutes later and Julio Cesar was back in action as Fernando Torres broke clear and forced a really smart save from the Brazilian International.
Rangers' were forced into their first change after 20minutes, with Fabio limping off with what looked like a hamstring probelm. Nedum Onuoha replaced Fabio and took his place at right back as Jose Bosingwa swapped over to left back.
The R's were playing some excellent football in the first half with some good short passes and keeping possesion with Wright-Phillips and Park looking to run beyond the strikers to create openings. Faurlin and Granero in the centre of midfield showed a great understanding with each other, working hard and run the show in midfield.
On the half hour the visitors had a really good penalty shout as Hazard was brought down by Wright-Phillips. My reaction was that I thought it was going to be given but all R's fans were grateful of Andre Marriner for waving away a near definite penalty.
Rangers' were dealt with a second blow with ten minutes remaining of the half. Johnson collapsed in a heap after attempting a put a challenge in on Hazard. Surprisingly it was Jamie Mackie that was the replacement for Johnson, when you would of perhaps expected Cisse to be called into action.
At half time the gang met up on the concourse in a very positive mood and really enjoying what was a comfortable first half. We were impressed with the way our defence looked more assured with Cesar in goal and had Nelsen and Ferdinand looking confident in front of him.
The second half started with the R's being the brightest of the two sides. Good work from Park saw him find Zamora, who in turn flicked it on to Mackie and the Scot hit his shot straight into Petr Cech's arms.
The confidence was clearly growing amongst the R's players and they begun to take control of the game.
On the hour mark the R's had their best chance of the game. The excellent Granero found Park completely unmarked and the Rangers' captain could not direct his header past Cech, as he once again made a straightforward save.
Soon after Faurlin played a brilliant thirty yard pass to Wright-Phillips, who let the ball bounce in front of him before hitting his shot on the volley and just past the post.
On 70 minutes the introduction on Cisse delighted the R's faithful as he come on to replace Wright-Phillips who had looked lively all game.
Soon after Cisse's arrival his pace troubled Terry and the Chelsea captain pulled up with an injury which the R's fans celebrated as if they had scored! Terry returned to the field to complete the 90minutes of hate filled chants towards him.
Rangers' had their best chance of the game with 15minutes to go. Mikel played his backpass short and Zamora was able to round Cech but found himself at an acute angle so chose to cut back in towards goal and really should have laid the ball back to Cisse or the on rushing Mackie, however he decided to be greedy and ended up having his tame shot blocked.
The final chance of the game fell Chelsea's way with Hazard being found unmarked at the back post unmarked and his shot flew over the bar into the Upper Loft.
A point at the end of the game was probably a fair result on reflection.
When you review the game you can safely say that no R's player had a bad game and everyone stood up and made a positive contribution to the game.
Our defence looked a lot more assured with Julio Cesar in goal and apart from the four saves he had to make, there was very little for the Brazilian to do. Ryan Nelsen and Anton Ferdinand looked comfortable and like they are starting to forge a good partnership. Bosingwa looked threatening on the attack whilst also showing good anticipation and making important tackles. Park put in his usual industrious performance and did not stop running all game. Wright-Phillips made some impressive runs off the ball and did trouble Ashley Cole at times as he begins to look like the confidence is growing and getting back to the player we know he is. Faurlin and Granero were outstanding in the centre and really worked hard to contain Chelsea's midfield three whilst also controlling the game from an R's perspective. Their vision and passing was a joy to watch and considering this is only their second game together, who knows what these two are capable of? It was a shame to see Johnson limp off as he was enjoying a good game and his link up play with Zamora was superb. Zamora led the line well and really should've done better when he was one on one with Cech.
Having said all of the above the Man of the Match vote was closely contested. Getting one vote was Bosingwa, two votes were given to Nelsen, Park and Granero and the winner with three votes was Alejandro Faurlin.
After the game the gang went to the Springbok to continue Sam's birthday celebrations with Luke, Lofty, PK, Corp, Steve, Jointy, Perry, Jess and myself.
Plenty of Jaegarbombs and booze was consumed as the party went onto the Walkabout as Jess and myself left and I'm sure there was plenty more drinking and dancing enjoyed by everyone.
Lofty will return with the Spurs report as we hit the road next Sunday.