Bale brace quietens QPR's fighting talk as Spurs switch on the style
TOTTENHAM 3 QPR 1
At half-time at White Hart Lane yesterday, as Harry Redknapp and his players re-assembled in the Tottenham dressing room after a 45-minute rout in the rain, they became aware of a commotion coming from next door.
"There was arguing and all sorts going on in their dressing room," Redknapp said. "It was all kicking off. I thought, 'they're going to have a go in the second half for sure'."
Small wonder. Swamped by scandal over the last week, Anton Ferdinand and his defensive colleagues were swamped by white shirts in the first period of this game.
QPR were as dormant as Tottenham had been dominant, the only saving grace that the score remained 2-0.
As well as issuing his players a few home truths, Neil Warnock decided to change the system. Out went the ineffective Adel Taarabt; in came the imposing forms of Jay Bothroyd and Jamie Mackie up front.
So QPR had a go and it was a good job they did. It averted what could have turned into a real humiliation. When the great teams really click, their command and judgment of all three dimensions appears almost preternatural and Tottenham showed at least a little of that here, moving the ball with real intelligence, seeing spaces before they opened up, allowing moves to unfurl like the petals of a flower. Three goals could easily have been more in that first-half alone.
But in a 20-minute period at the start of the second half, QPR managed to unsettle them, asserting control of the aerial battles, pulling a goal back through Bothroyd, and briefly threatening to claim a point from the game. Gareth Bale's sublime curling effort put paid to that idea, but there was enough quality on show to allow QPR fans a little optimism on their way back to west London.
"I feared the worst after 10 minutes," Warnock said. "And after 15, and after 20, and after 25. I think we showed them too much respect."
"Some of the football we brought on ourselves. We gave the ball away in silly areas and we weren't compact enough. But in the second half we didn't show them as much respect. We made it a good game for the punters."
Who knows what might have happened if QPR had started the game as they had finished it? But then, that has been their season in microcosm: turning over Chelsea one week, shipping six at Fulham another. As a team, and as a club, they appear fated to endure such soaring highs and torrid lows.
Their defence still appears fatally prone to lapses in concentration.
One such led to the opening goal, when Emmanuel Adebayor's flick-on found Rafael van der Vaart. Lennon's run was not tracked, and the winger was allowed to drift inside and knock the ball into the path of Bale, with right-back Luke Young nowhere to be seen.
It was the classic Bale finish -- running in from the left and burying the ball in the bottom corner. Still QPR failed to tighten. Adebayor headed wide from six yards after eluding Ferdinand and Young, a lapse over which both players were still angrily remonstrating some time later. "Armband!" Neil Warnock was often to be heard screaming from the touchline, trying in vain to cajole some life out of his left-back Armand Traore.
Warnock's exhortations were falling on deaf ears. When Danny Gabbidon's rushed clearance went straight to Ledley King 30 yards out, QPR were too slow to press. It cost them dearly when King's shot found its way to Van der Vaart, being played onside by Traore. Van der Vaart made no mistake, scoring his sixth goal in five games with QPR more concerned about appealing for offside.
All over the pitch, QPR were losing battles and fighting fires. Young was getting a fearful roughing up at the hands of Bale. Scott Parker was brilliant: always keeping the ball, very often winning it. Modric was peerless, a searing left-footed volley from a Van der Vaart corner whistling just inches wide. QPR were being toyed with.
But out they came for the second half, Warnock having used all three of his subs after an early injury to Fitz Hall, and Tottenham were startled. They were stunned out of their stupor when Heidar Helguson headed Joey Barton's corner back across goal and Bothroyd nodded home.
But there was to be no amazing comeback as Bale's second goal, after a beautiful exchange between Lennon and him on the edge of the area, settled matters, giving Tottenham a sixth win in seven games. (© Daily Telegraph, London)