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Promising start as Redknapp settles for draw

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 - 4:14pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Redknapp began his mission to rescue bottom-placed QPR with a well-deserved point and a team performance brimming with graft if little craft on a wet Wearside on Tuesday.

Sunderland 0 Queens Park Rangers 0

Harry Redknapp began his mission to rescue bottom-placed QPR with a well-deserved point and a team performance brimming with graft if little craft on a wet Wearside on Tuesday.

QPR looked more organised and purposeful but they need a more potent force in attack than Djibril Cisse on this evidence. The determined defender and captain, Ryan Nelsen, was the pick of the hooped visitors, who finished the happier.

The knot of QPR fans looking rather lonely up high in one corner of the rain-swept Stadium of Light had launched into "Harry Redknapp's blue and white army" early on. With only 375 travelling, it was more a battalion than an army.

Their new manager had shaped his players up in compact 4-5-1 fashion with Jamie Mackie and the left-sided Adel Taarabt giving the width. Cisse played the lone front-runner, soon enjoying a good chance from a Taarabt cross but heading downwards and failing to trouble Simon Mignolet.

Redknapp had been working on a plan to protect a porous defence better, stationing Stephane Mbia in front of the back-four with Samba Diakite and occasionally Esteban Granero dropping deep. Redknapp had also called for "effort", and his players certainly did not let him down in the first half.

Even Taarabt, hardly renowned for leaving his shirt etched in sweat and grass-stains, put in a strong shift of work, although there was one moment when the Moroccan lost the ball after one step-over too many and then tracked back with all the urgency of an elderly rambler enjoying the scenery.

Redknapp shrugged his shoulders in annoyance but it was a rare show of lethargy by Taarabt. QPR need his creativity. Two players who can give QPR some attacking threat, Kieron Dyer (from right-back) and Alejandro Faurlin failed to make even the bench despite both having trained on Monday.

Faurlin did travel to the North East, watching this meeting between two underachieving sides. So much is right about Sunderland from good stadium to strong fan-base, from an experienced manager in Martin O'Neill to a sensible owner in Ellis Short. So it has been strange seeing them struggling, especially after the substantial investment in the summer.

The pounds 12?million Steven Fletcher embarked on a bustling early run eventually ended illegally by the visitors' captain, Nelsen. Craig Gardner whistled the free-kick wide.

Adam Johnson has still to do his talent justice but gave glimpses of his undoubted quality here, delivering some good passes and covering back to help Danny Rose in an opening half that was far from a classic.

Sunderland were forced into an early change when Lee Cattermole came off worse in a 50-50 with Mbia, eventually hobbling off rubbing his knee, a concern has he has only just returned from a knee problem.

Jack Colback ran on, taking on the fight against Diakite and company.

QPR were playing with greater conviction than in recent weeks. Cisse seemed to be on a shoot-on-sight mission, forcing Mignolet into a low, sprawling save. Then Sunderland enjoyed a promising period, Sessegnon, Fletcher and Johnson charging upfield until Nelsen intervened. Johnson then swung in a free-kick that Carlos Cuellar flicked on and Julio Cesar tipped over.

Cisse was still shooting whenever possible, this time propelling the ball wide. QPR then went long, Diakite drilling the ball upfield towards Mackie, although Rose did well to nip the danger in the bud.

Taarabt then almost forced the breakthrough, teasing the ball behind Sunderland's defence for Mackie, whose heavy first touch enabled Mignolet to rush out and block. Taarabt twice had chances with rebounds but Sunderland's defence stood firm.

Chances came and went. Johnson, showing neat control, released Fletcher through but Cesar saved well, although he seemed to stretch his groin and was replaced by Robert Green at the interval. As the half closed, Mignolet saved well from Nelsen's header.

Redknapp was soon almost a permanent fixture in his technical area, hands deep in is pocket, willing his team on. He was joined on occasion by his faithful assistants, Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond, whose deals have clearly been done. They watched as Mbia bulldozed forward and shot wide.

They looked nervously as Johnson won a corner off Jose Bosingwa. Seb Larsson lifted in the corner which was met powerfully by Fletcher but Green saved superbly. This was a big moment for Green, the former England keeper, whose move to Loftus Road had immediately been stymied by the arrival of Cesar.

His goal came under intermittent threat. Clint Hill brought down the speeding Colback on the edge of the area but Sunderland failed to exploit the situation.

O'Neill then withdrew Johnson, sending on James McClean, whose continued development as a rising star has been slowed as opposing right-backs have learned to show him on to his weaker, right foot. Yet some of Sunderland's best deliveries from the left came from Rose, who impressed with both his attacking and defending.

With 13 minutes remaining, Redknapp took off Taarabt, who had not fully taken to his second-half role moving from the left to seeking to scheme in the hole. Shaun Wright-Phillips scampered on as QPR strived to seize the win. Mackie was all bustle and muscle down the right, occasionally overdoing it and fouling Rose.

QPR broke in style with three minutes left. Mackie led the charge, slipping the ball inside to Cisse before Granero took control. He clipped the ball to Wright-Phillips, whose low shot was saved by Mignolet.

Towards the end, frustration seeped on to the home terraces and the home dug-out. Martin O'Neill leapt around, anxious at his team's lack of a cutting edge. Sunderland fans booed briefly at the final whistle as their QPR counterparts celebrated the point and the performance.

 


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