What a game. What incredible atmosphere in our section. What a story that match was. 2 Penalties, 1 pen save, one hits the post in the last minute, a goal right after half time and a late match winner that almost wasn't.
And it all could have started so incredibly well too, in the first minute some beautiful play down the wing got a cross into the back post which Washington just couldn't get enough power behind. And that was very much the way play went today for us, lots of good work down the wing and that's exactly how we got our first goal, with a ball played across goal after good work down the wing leading to a shot by Washington which hits Polter on it's way into the back of the net. A great goal with solid build up play.
Fulham then started to really take advantage of the counter attack and should have scored but for a poor miss by Chris Martin after being played onto an open goal by Lucas Piazon. This is where we see our first player issue of the day and that's Steven Caulker. Now, when he defended, he was solid, but then he ran forward and almost left us exposed every time, but for Karl Henry's contribution. He took on the role of centre back every time Caulker went up and what's more, he then got forward whenever caulker was back.
Onto the rest of the match and at half time, we looked comfortable and controlling the flow of the match. As soon as the second half started though, Fulham got their goal after a poor cross attempt by Parker hit the crossbar yet made it back into the danger area where it was turned in. Fulham really flexed their pace and Aluko was really getting into dangerous positions, but his shots were just wide each time. However on the other end of the pitch, we were much more dangerous with the actual positions of the chances and almost scored ourselves. At this point, we needed a turning point change and that's exactly what happened. A ball played across our box that was headed (somehow) just wide by one of the Fulham attackers. This is where we started to get a foothold, getting more deliveries into the box and creating and almost in exactly the same way, Ned hit it over with an open header at the back post.
And then the special moment. A long ball up by Smithies is received by Caulker who knocks it down to Shodipo. It's intercepted by Piazon but straight into the path of substitute Sylla who holds it up and releases it to Shodipo. Seeing Chery in space on the right, he releases him, and Chery beautifully fakes off his left foot and onto his "Weaker" right foot at which point he delivers a wonderful outswinging delivery straight onto Sylla's head. 2 - 1 and what a way to score. What's more, what a way to silence the critics. 2 Substitutes linking up and being almost directly involved in the goal. How's about that, all the flak for only making reactive subs and then he makes the ones that got us a new sense of history.
Unfortunately, it wasn't done yet and the wonderful referee decided to play 12th man for Fulham, first giving them a really soft free kick outside the box which they hit the crossbar with, but then giving the lightest possible second penalty. Now, people will say it was lady luck that saved us today. I disagree. You see, it's only luck if you haven't earned it. With us playing against 12 men and really being as good as we were in that match, it wasn't luck, it was karma. And thanks to karma and a good performance, we got 3 points.
The Team Stats
Right, You've probably seen the raw data somewhere on this site that fulham had 25 shots and we only had 14. But Fulham also only had 6 shots on target to our 7. Fulham knew how they wanted to play and they played that way. Pacy counter attacks. It worked for them. But when it came to controlling the game in the opposition half, we were brilliant. Now, Fulham were fairly well spread in terms of attacking sides, they did most of their attack down the right and roughly the same amount of attacking from the left and centre. We however were focused entirely on the wingplay, with only 20% of our attacks coming through the middle. As a team, we dribbled way more than they did, we were more aggressive and intercepted more intelligently than they did, we put our bodies in the way more than they did and we won way more in the air than they did. We were definitely not as lucky as some say we were.
Sandro on the bench was absolutely livid when he was told he wasn't coming on. Threw his bib on the floor and sat on a block next to the bench, refusing to join the rest of the subs. Poor play, especially when the kid that came on did very well and was needed frankly.
The QPR fans were phenomenal throughout and it was quite awe inspiring to see the support, especially given the whole build up. Glad to see that the atmosphere saboteurs didn't get their way.
The Player Ratings
So, I'm gonna put my ratings and whoscored.com ratings just to link them up.
For me though, it's a little more like this:
Alex Smithies - 8: Fantastic Penalty save again, great coming off his line and was unlucky for their goal. Solid performance and much more like what we're used to seeing from him.
Nedum Onuoha - 7: Unfortunate to give away the penalty which shouldn't have been, but a solid performance nevertheless and really seemed confident and assured on the ball, running past players with ease and being a real danger, winning 2 dribbles, 2 aerial duels and 5 interceptions as well as almost scoring (a goal he should frankly have put away). His rating on whoscored was brought down from a 7.30 as a result of conceding the penalty.
Steven Caulker - 7: He would have a 6.5 but for an incredible goal line block. Had an interesting game really, gave away a penalty early on for pulling, got up the field a lot and left his defence exposed as a result. Was involved in the build up to our second goal. Fantastic in the air again, winning 4 aerial duels.
Grant Hall - 7: Hasn't been himself this season but today he was solid. I think his issue is that Caulker does like to run up the field a lot and that leaves him exposed for pace at times and his relative inexperience leaves him at a psychological disadvantage at times too, especially when playing such a high line. Made 2 interceptions though, won 5 aerial duels and was all round solid if unspectacular.
Joel Lynch - 6.5: Was very good in the final third and defensive third, those areas alone he'd get a 7.5ish. But for a full back, he lacked the work in the middle third, the ability to carry the ball, and this isn't going against him as a player, I think he's great. But he's very clearly a weakness at full back. Did manage 5 crosses and his ball playing is great, I just feel he lacks the style and movement of a full back.
Karl Henry - 7: I've finally realised what his role is in the squad. He's basically a plug. Whenever he sees a defensive player leave their position, he re-positions to limit the aftermath. His ball playing is great as usual and he turns very well for a player like him. It helped that he didn't just stay back when the back line was in place today, he did push forward and with him, came my Man of the match...
Massimo Luongo - 9: What a player. Seriously, this guy is something special. I'm not Australian, I have no links to this guy, no reason to want to see him succeed other than for the sake of our club. But seriously, the way Mass understands the game is so fantastic. I've run out of superlatives to describe the kid so I'll just tell you what he did. 1) More dribbles than anyone on the pitch and some of them looked messi-esque. He's so comfortable on the ball, bringing it forward that he'd have you think he's useless defensively. Until you see 2) He made more successful tackles than anyone on the pitch. But that's not all because 3) he blocked more crosses than anyone on the pitch. Ok but he seems small, he probably doesn't win much in the air... 4) Only their substitute Smith won more aerial duels than Mass Luongo. His passing is great, his shooting boots were back today and he almost scored a couple of chances. What a performance by a phenomenal player.
Pawel Wszolek - 7.5: Did exactly what you'd expect from him by now... tracked back, ran the wing perfectly, delivered crosses, got an assist. All in a day's work for Pawel Wszolek. Solid footballer and a great signing.
Tjaronn Chery - 8.5: An incredible performance from a player who is above this league when he feels like it. Some of his touches were sublime, his dribbling was immense, his deliveries were phenomenal and his movement was ghost-like. He did not play as a winger today, as much as people want to believe he did. He cannot play as a winger, as much as people want to believe he can. He is an attacking midfield "Trequarista" but with even more energy than your standard trequarista. His rotation play is great but he doesn't tend to do much in the defensive third, which means with the system we're playing, as a winger he leaves us exposed.
Washington - 7.5: What an improvement since moving out wide. Looked comfortable cutting in and rotating with Chery, sort of being left alone by the defenders as a result of his starting position has helped him get more involved. Tracks back well but prior to today, didn't really do much in and around the box. Today however that changed and he managed to get the monkey off his back so to speak... however, I do think the dubious goals panel will take the goal away from him as it did touch Polter on it's way in unfortunately. Take nothing away from his performance though, he was great, really good to see him feeling comfortable out wide. He'll give good competition to Yeni and both will improve as a result.
Polter - 7: Only because I think he got the goal will he get a 7 rating, but he probably more warrants a 6.5. He looked good, chased down, showed pace and energy and that tenacity we love and tried hard without offering too much. Still a vital part of our style of play, whether he starts or is subbed on, he'll create problems.
I don't like giving subs ratings unless they've played at least 45 minutes of football because it devalues the ratings of other players who've played the whole match, but I'll do a short write up for them anyway.
Sylla - Matchwinner, simple as that. Played well without doing too much running, gets the ball in the air a lot and gets into good positions but my big criticism is that either he needs to be more aware of his surroundings or he needs to just shoot more, because there are times where he gets the ball and should just leather it, but instead, he just waits to set himself up and ends up getting tackled.
Shodipo - Impact sub, came on and really forced the fools back, made life impossible for their defenders after they thought they were done when Pawel came off. His running and interplay is definitely improving but he still needs to work on his final delivery.
Hamalainen - Good future, this kid looks like he has something about him. I don't know what it is, maybe it's the cheek to attempt a nutmeg in a derby in the dying embers, maybe it's his desire to get forward and make a difference, but I see this kid being a big thing for us one day hopefully.
Someone I can give a rating to, and given the starting line up, the style of play, the substitutions, he will get at least an 8.5 for that. The substitutions were masterstrokes that won us the game, the starting line up did a fantastic job and playing 1 out and out winger and 1 inside forward gave us so many options. After all that's happened this week, Jimmy has shown his tactical ability and long may this potential renaissance continue.