No defence for Samba as QPR collapse

Wednesday 3rd April 2013 12:59

Samba: Battles with Berbatov on Monday

Samba: Battles with Berbatov on Monday

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FanZone's QPR blogger Chris King reflects on Chris Samba's hapless performance at Fulham, whose victory pushed Rangers nearer to the drop.

Queens Park Rangers began the game against Fulham on Monday night in a state of visible nervousness, and could have done without conceding a goal within the first eight minutes.

Although the fear was palpable, from Clint Hill at the heart of the defence to returning striker Bobby Zamora, one player was feeling the pressure more than any other.

Being extremely well paid can be a curse, reads the most unlikely newspaper headline in history. In the case of Christopher Samba, it was a millstone at Craven Cottage.

While the Congolese centre-back was at fault for Fulham taking the lead and then extending it, the masterly inactivity of Dimitar Berbatov quickly put the hosts 2-0 up.

Signed for £12.5million from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in January, Samba was presented as the final stitch to sew up the defence, not the means by which to unravel it.

It seemed Rangers had well and truly been spun a yarn, and sold a man for whom football was not a familiar concept, as he scythed down Ashkan Dejagah in the box.

Perhaps this clumsiness, which resulted in a penalty that Berbatov expertly tucked away, could have been forgiven were it not for the comic idiocy that followed.

Under pressure from Fulham winger Damien Duff, Samba saw fit to dribble inside his own area and gift possession to the Bulgarian, who finished with aplomb to spark a gleeful chorus of "Rangers going down".

Facing the wrath of the frozen QPR masses behind the goal, which by this time ought to have been roped off as a crime scene, Samba was saved further humiliation by his unfortunate colleague.

Hill, rightly a favourite with Rs supporters because of his visible commitment to the cause, could do absolutely nothing to avoid turning a vicious cross from John Arne Riise past goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

By now the Cottagers were having a jolly old time of it, and some even seemed to realise that they were at a football match, but the neutral stands were soon silenced by a piledriver from Adel Taarabt.

This was followed after the break by a performance that would have merited all three points, had it only started 45 minutes earlier, and in fact yielded just one more goal.

Despite a poor performance, by his standards, Taarabt forced another error from Giorgos Karagounis, after his misplaced pass for the Moroccan's first strike, as he gave away a penalty.

Striker Loïc Remy missed from six yards but made no mistake minutes later. With the comeback now firmly on, manager Harry Redknapp saw fit to withdraw Taarabt after 74 minutes.

Naturally, the former Tottenham boss intended the wing wizardry of Junior Hoilett to unlock the still-stubborn Cottagers defence, but the switch left a gaping hole in central midfield.

Had the hosts displayed a little more ambition than merely running the clock down, they could have exploited the fact that every ball launched into the box was headed out and fell to a Fulham player.

The "comeback" that had appeared a certainty less than half an hour before was reduced to Samba unilaterally deciding to play as a makeshift forward, and attacking forays becoming impotent punts up field.

After the game, Redknapp said: "Samba pushed himself up front and we started knocking it long to him. That's not the way we play and not the way you play against 10 men.

"We'd been creating three or four chances every 10 minutes and would have created more against 10 men, but because he was up front they started lumping it to him."

Some fans took to Twitter that evening to express their dismay at Samba's performance, sparking a fierce debate and angry reaction from the player in question as to what a "£100,000 performance" looks like.

You get what you pay for, goes the time-honoured expression. In a doomed battle to remain in the Premier League, Rangers have spent more than £20million on two players.

One of these was directly at fault for two calamitous goals. The other missed a handful of chances and fluffed a crucial penalty, although Remy admittedly found the net shortly afterwards.

Silky, unplayable Berbatov, on the other hand, cost a quarter of their combined total and orchestrated every pass, move and shot throughout the entire match. Funny old game, football.

By Chris King, FanZone's QPR blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @chriskking - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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