Queens Park Rangers should have won on Saturday. 1-0 up through Bobby Zamora, netting on his debut and emulating his strike partner Djibril Cisse’s goal-scoring first appearance in blue and white, Wolverhampton Wanderers were there for the taking. Thoroughly dominant, against a side who had lost their last nine games, and experienced the ignominy of having their Chairman walk into the dressing room and lambast their mediocre efforts after a 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool, Mick McCarthy’s side were a miracle away from claiming all three points. Step up new the aforementioned Cisse to provide said miracle. From the lofty view of this supporter in the stands, the Frenchman’s offence initially appeared to be nothing more than reacting to a rash, dangerous challenge from the Wolves defender with a push in the back. However, Twitter instantly exploded with testimony from observers with access to instant replays. By these, Cisse was damned, and his true offence – grabbing [Johnson] by the throat – revealed to the world. In the meantime, of course, he had been dismissed, and the sting well and truly taken out of the R’s front-line. Zamora was tasked with the impossible – maintaining some sort of threat on the away side’s goal, and holding up the ball at every possible opportunity against the overtly physical defensive pairing of Johnson and Sebastien Bassong.
Villa Park is a magnificent stadium. A, excuse the cliché, proper football ground. Regional accents, surrounded by flyovers, railway lines and industrial estates, it is a slice of what the great game once was. Atmosphere-wise, however, it has suffered from the exact same sanitisation inflicted upon every other top-flight ground. When Djibril Cisse gave visiting QPR the lead last night, the murmurings of discontent in the home end turned into a wave of dissent, the stadium’s acoustics ensuring that the fans’ collective chagrin showered down on the poorly-performing players on the pitch below. It got worse for Villa as well, when Stephen Warnock planted an inch-perfect header past Shay Given – into his own net. Red-faced Warnock slumped to the ground, his head in his hands, realising that the he had inadvertently given the away side a seemingly unassailable advantage with just a few minutes remaining until the interval.