Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Aston Villa 2 QPR 2

Djibril Cissé and QPR started this entertaining game in style but Aston Villa finished by far the stronger, and were unfortunate not to win. Only Paddy Kenny’s reflexes kept QPR in it.

So cautious in the early stages, when a Cissé strike and a surreal Stephen Warnock own goal put Rangers in charge, Villa responded impressively. Darren Bent clinically and Charles N’Zogbia flamboyantly brought Villa level but Kenny denied them further reward. Rangers ended with a point and the memory of Cissé’s strong debut.

The final piece of paperwork from Lazio to the FA had gone through 90 minutes before kick-off, so clearing Cissé to play. After the red tape had been unravelled, the £4 million striker cut through the claret-and-blue defence as if were ribbon. QPR’s tactics had clearly been to release Cissé as quickly as possible, using his pace to get behind Richard Dunne and the hapless Warnock on the left of Villa’s back four.

The Frenchman, returning to the Premier League, hit the ground running, scoring and putting in a first-half display of back-heels and back-flips that had the visiting fans purring. “There’s only one Cissé,’’ they chanted. Newcastle United fans will disagree but this was love at first sight between QPR and their new No 23.

Cisse was unstoppable, scoring a good goal after Shaun Wright-Phillips had somehow laid the ball into his path. As the Holte End looked on in horror, the unmarked Cissé hammered the ball past Shay Given. His celebration was even better, that familiar collection of flips getting an airing.

Villa could not deal with him. Warnock had already welcomed him back with a strong challenge, leaving him spinning on the turf and appealing to Neil Swarbrick for action. The referee ignored the claims.

His movement was too much for Villa. He almost scored a second with an acrobatic volley. He then raced away from Dunne, never an equal sprint race, and lifted in a cross that was just too high for Wright-Phillips. The England winger was working the left, occasionally moving central, and linking well with Cissé, who found him with a neat back-heel midway through the half.

Jamie Mackie provided the width on the right while Rob Hulse partnered Cissé . The prospect of Bobby Zamora, who did not sign in time for this game, forming an exciting attacking axis with Cissé also warmed the hearts of the QPR fans on a freezing night.

Alex McLeish became increasingly frustrated with Warnock, shouting instructions at the left-back, who had rarely been in favour with Gerard Houllier. Warnock’s stock fell even lower than the temperature when addressing a seemingly harmless cross from Taye Taiwo, the visitors’ new left-back.

Warnock’s reaction was extraordinary, resembling a sports-shy schoolboy trying to get out of games. Instead of heading clear, Warnock headed the ball firmly past Given. Villa’s keeper has been down this road before with Warnock, even saving from his team-mate against Everton, but he had no chance there. Warnock’s header flew between Given and upright.

The Holte End howled. McLeish held his head in his hands. Yet his team responded, their momentum accelerated by the waning of QPR’s initial adrenalin charge.

Robbie Keane was inevitably involved, firing goalwards and forcing Paddy Kenny to push the danger away. Dunne then Ciaran Clark threatened. Villa screamed for a penalty when Mackie appeared to handle. Still the hosts pressed, knowing the level of opprobrium that could await them at the break. Bent headed wide.

The pressure told when Keane found Alan Hutton down the right and the Scot drilled the ball across low and hard, perfectly for the clever run of Bent. The England striker stole a march on his marker, nipping in to score with a typical first-time finish for his 100th Premier League, becoming the 22nd man to achieve the feat.

Though trailing only 2-1, the mood among the Villa faithful was initially still unforgiving, with some boos ringin out.

But the Holte End was soon at its supportive best as the second half opened. Villa were attacking this famous bank of humanity, and every fan shouted for a penalty when Clark’s strike hit Shaun Derry’s hand. Swarbick waved play on.

Back came Villa again, Stiliyan Petrov and Keane thwarted by Kenny.Then Charles N’Zogbia raced through the gears, sprinting into the box until closed down by Joey Barton.

Rangers’ third debutant, Nedum Onuoha, was settling in well in defence, helping Barton to frustrate N’Zogbia and attempting to deal with the rising claret-and-blue tide. Bent almost found a way through but Taiwo was too substantial a barrier.

McLeish had introduced Barry Bannan’s subtle gifts into the fray. He tried his luck with a long-range free-kick that thudded into the QPR wall.

Hughes’ side were defending increasingly deep. Cissé was a distant figure.

Villa took increasing advantage. Stephen Ireland released Petrov down the right and his cross was met ­magnificently by N’Zogbia, who drove the ball past Kenny.

Villa were terrific. Bent had a shot cleared off the line then Kenny saved brilliantly from N’Zogbia. Again.

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