Old heads lift QPR
Mark Buckingham was impressed by the way Queens Park Rangers called on experience to secure a 0-0 draw at home with Harry Redknapp's former club Tottenham Hotspur.
Last Updated: 12/01/13 5:57pm
Harry Redknapp faced Tottenham Hotspur for the first time on Saturday since his departure last summer and experience came to the fore as Queens Park Rangers delivered a disciplined performance to draw 0-0 at Loftus Road.
One of the Premier League's elder statesman, Redknapp's game-plan worked to perfection as the old heads of goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defenders Clint Hill and Ryan Nelsen, and midfielder Shaun Derry all played vital roles.
For Tottenham, it was probably one of their most disjointed performances and Andre Villas-Boas' side only really threatened in the opening stages of each half.
Harry Redknapp made two changes to his starting line-up from QPR's last Premier League game - the impressive 1-0 win at Chelsea. Esteban Granero was out with a hamstring injury, so Park Ji-sung came in for his first league start since October. Junior Hoilett was also missing with a hamstring problem, so Shaun Wright-Phillips was rewarded for his winner at Stamford Bridge with a starting spot on the left wing.
Redknapp's successor at Tottenham - Villas-Boas - tinkered even less with his starting line-up, making just one change from the team which beat Reading 3-1 on New Year's Day. Gareth Bale was restored to the side after missing the Reading win through suspension, which meant Gylfi Sigurdsson dropped down to the bench. Emmanuel Adebayor was playing his last game for Spurs before heading off to represent Togo at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Discipline, hard work and organisation were the keys to QPR's performance and Redknapp's tactics worked perfectly to nullify Spurs' threat for large periods of the game. Adel Taarabt was nominally deployed as a striker and, though he was a frustrated figure at times, his ability to drop deep afforded space to runners from midfield. Jamie Mackie was a tireless figure on the right flank and Wright-Phillips caused Kyle Walker plenty of problems down the left. Derry's experience was key in the holding midfield role, while fellow veterans Hill and Nelsen impressed at the back.
Tottenham boss Villas-Boas kept things simple by going 4-4-2, with Aaron Lennon and Bale as out-and-out wingers. However, Lennon and Bale were rarely given the opportunity to run at the full-backs and Spurs' creativity from midfield was, for once, lacking.
Julio Cesar has endured some sticky moments since joining QPR earlier in the season and replacing summer signing Rob Green as first choice. However, he had one of his best games for the club, producing a superb double save after just five minutes to deny Jermain Defoe and then Adebayor. If he can maintain this form, he will be a big player in QPR's bid for Premier League survival.
Michael Dawson rejected a move to QPR last summer in order to fight for his place at Tottenham and he again reminded Villas-Boas of the qualities he brings to the team. His block deflected Wright-Phillips' shot wide on 12 minutes and he then produced a superb saving tackle to prevent Stephane Mbia charging through on goal.
In a show of faith in his players, and the way his game-plan was working, QPR boss Redknapp didn't call on any of his substitutes.
In contrast, his opposite number Villas-Boas was forced into a change after just 25 minutes when Sandro was forced off through injury to be replaced by Scott Parker, who added fighting qualities in midfield, despite still looking a little rusty. Clint Dempsey replaced Adebayor with 20 minutes to go, but wasn't able to change the course of the game, while Sigurdsson's introduction for Lennon also did little to knock QPR out of their stride.
Lee Probert probably won't have too many easier games to referee in his career, dishing out just two bookings to Mbia and Mousa Dembele. He handled the game confidently and there were only a couple of incidents involving Lennon that Probert had to make a 50/50 call on. Lennon felt he had been tripped by Fabio in the first half, but no free-kick was given, while Probert rightly awarded a free-kick, rather than a penalty, when the same two players tangled early in the second half.
Another one of Redknapp's former clubs is up next in the Premier League for Queens Park Rangers and it's another London derby against West Ham United next weekend. Before that, Redknapp looks likely to make a few changes for the FA Cup replay at West Brom. After the trip across London to Upton Park, QPR face champions Manchester City and Norwich City at home, and Redknapp's tactics will be key to how many points his side can pick up.
Spurs' credentials as top-four finishers will be given a thorough test in their next game when leaders Manchester United visit White Hart Lane. However, Spurs will take great heart from a 3-2 win at Old Trafford earlier this season before heading on their travels for games against Norwich City and West Brom which Villas-Boas will pinpoint as being winnable.