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Venue: Loftus Road, London
Premier League
 Saturday 3 March 2012; 3pm
1 1
Zamora (36')
Half Time: 1-1
Drenthe (31')
Attendance: 18,033
Fixture 26
Referee: Kevin Friend

Match Report

Everton extended their unbeaten run to eight matches but they'll feel like this was an opportunity missed after Royston Drenthe helped to undo his own great work in scoring the opener by conceding a clumsy foul at the other end that led to QPR's equaliser.

The Blues could have few complaints, though, about a result that gained them just a point in their pursuit of Liverpool in seventh place and drops them back into the bottom half of the Premier League. Though they started brightly and played some neat football at times, Everton were inconsistent, at times profligate in possesson, lacking in penetration in the final third and matched over the 90 minutes by a Rangers team struggling for confidence and hovering just above the relegation zone on goal difference.

With Darron Gibson out injured and Jack Rodwell not risked, David Moyes was forced to deploy the rather one-dimensional Phil Neville in central midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini but compensated on the flanks by playing both Steven Pienaar and Drenthe from the start.

And that attacking bent almost reaped early dividends when Neville's long throw in the QPR area fell to Tim Cahill but the Australian's shot cannoned frustratingly off the face of the crossbar and away to safety from the home side's perspective.

Despite a poor record and a glut of red cards on home turf recently, QPR settled fairly quickly after that and had three chances to open the scoring in the first 20 minutes, all three from set-pieces. Clint Hill wasn't able to stab Akos Buzsaky's off-target shot home after Marouane Fellaini had cleared from a ninth-minute corner and the same player could only head the Hungarian's free kick over from close range two minutes later. Then, after Sylvain Distin had been adjudged to have fouled Shaun Wright-Phillips on the edge of the box, Tim Howard did well to dive to his right and push Buzsaky's direct free kick away.

Back at the other end, John Heitinga's inability to react quickly enough when Drenthe's inswinging corner dropped at his feet a yard from goal robbed the Blues of the best chance thus far before Wright-Phillips set a stooping header wide of Howard's left-hand post after Heitinga's awful pass out of defence had handed possession straight to the opposition.

When Fellaini's dogged tackling back rescued an attack from another sloppy pass, this by Distin, however, it created the opening from which Drenthe smashed home the game's opening goal. Steven Pienaar picked up the ball from Fellaini midway inside the QPR half before slipping it inside to Drenthe and, just as he did at Fulham earlier this season, the Dutchman found the net with an unstoppable shot from 25 yards out.

Rangers responded to the setback quickly, though, and came within inches of levelling matters immediately when another Buzsaky free kick ricocheted off the wall leaving Howard stranded on the other side of the goal but the ball dropped the other side of the post.

Five minutes after Everton's goal, though, QPR did equalise. Drenthe scythed Adel Taarabt down near the byline, not only picking up a booking for his troubles but also handing the home team a free kick in a dangerous position. Buzsaky duly delivered the killer ball and Bobby Zamora headed home from close range.

Undeterred, the Blues were given an opportunity of their own to strike back quickly when Denis Stracqualursi was barged over by Hill setting up a direct free kick in a central position, 25 yards out. It was prime Leighton Baines territory but, after a squirrel briefly interrupted play by invading the pitch, Drenthe insisted on taking it and, annoyingly, he despatched it straight into the defensive wall.

Mark Hughes has struggled to right the ship at Loftus Road since replacing Neil Warnock in the hotseat but he'll have been wondering how his side didn't go into the half-time interval ahead. A long ball from the back found Zamora and when he laid it back to Taarabt, the Moroccan lined up a 20-yard shot that came back off the inside of the post and came back to Zamora. He squared it back for Buzsaky who had the goal at his mercy but he side-footed onto the other upright and wasted a gilt-edged chance.

The second half was a less enterprising affair from Everton's perspective and they lost their way somewhat until Nikica Jelavic replaced Tim Cahill just past the hour mark. The Croatian provided a lot more guile and movement up front — not to mention a fine finish to find the net after the whistle had gone for offside — but he wouldn't get the chances he needed to score a winning goal on only his second appearance since arriving from Rangers at the end of January.

Moyes's other change, Leon Osman for Drenthe, was less useful, particularly as the returning midfielder was deployed wide on the right where Seamus Coleman would have been — and later was — much more effective. It left the team bereft of pace and lacking someone willing to run straight at what was a determined and well-drilled QPR defence.

Chances were at a premium, too. Shaun Derry dragged one shot well wide shortly after the restart and, after being gifted the ball by Taarabt just outside the box, Fellaini made a mess of his own effort and sliced horribly wide of Paddy Kenny's goal.

Later, QPR would apply increasing pressure from a series of dead-ball situations but the Everton defence held firm, Taarabt firing across the face of goal after 66 minutes and Buzsaky firing off the top of wall from another free kick in the closing stages.

A draw on your travels is never something to be sniffed at but you got the sense that despite their growing confidence on the day, QPR were beatable and that Everton could have taken all three points, obviously with more discipline from Drenthe but also with more composure, more drive, and more invention in the final third.

Stracqualursi cut a very isolated figure for long periods of the first hour with very little link-up play between himself and Cahill but benefited greatly from the intoduction of Jelavic as his partner.

Down the left, the Pienaar-Baines axis threatened only sporadically and all too often seemed to run out of room in the tight confines of the Loftus Road pitch and the close attentions of the opposition defence.

And, unfortunately, Fellaini just didn't seem able to make things happen as the more attacking of the central midfield duo, let down a little by a mercurial performance.

So, back to Goodison for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur and a chance to atone for what was a fairly weak display at White Hart Lane two months ago. Moyes will have been encouraged by Jelavic's half-hour appearance and could well opt to start the Croatian next weekend for what will be a massive game for the Blues' hopes of sustaining their push towards European qualification.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

No Jack Rodwell but at least Nikica Jelavic and Leon Osman were deemed fit enough to sit on the bench, with Neville and Cahill preferred. Drenthe and Pienaar on the wings to hopefully provide width and creativity as Everton continue without the mercurial inspiration provided by Landon Donovan's all-too-brief visitation.

Tim Cahill smashed one off the bar in the fourth minute, from an excellent header played back by Fellaini at the near post off a Neville throw. Everton had the first corner but it was defended away and the blues had to be alert at the other end as QPR responded with a corner of their own.

A soft Drenthe foul led to a good delivery that was thankfully behind the QPR attacker as the hosts kept getting in behind the Everton defence. Drenthe got to put in a free-kick of his own but it was very poorly executed; however, he won one on the other side that Baines put in well.

Wright-Phillips got clipped and Kevin Friend gave QPR a dangerous free-kick that forced a tremendous save off Buzsaky's curling effort. A far better effort from Drenthe found Heitinga on the far post and it was harder not to score, but the Dutchman failed to wrap his boot around it from 2 feet out, and he then completely wasted a free-kick from the half-way line. Pienaar's deflected cross forced a tip-over from Kenney resulting in a good corner from Baines.

Wright-Phillips got behind a couple of good attempts and failed but Drenthe showed hin how it was done from well outside the area, a tremendous shot from a good layoff by Pienaar, and an excellent Everton goal.

At the other end, danger was only just averted as another dangerous free-kick careened off the wall and seemed headed to the opposite side of Howard's goal and just over.

But it was hero to zero for Drenthe, making a poor tackle that got him booked and gave QPR yet another free-kick which was delivered well and Zamora got the final touch with Howard perhaps standing too far back.

Then Everton won a dangerous kick of their own that was delayed by the antics of a squirrel on the pitch! Enough to put off Drenthe who drove his kick into the wall. Pienaar made a tremendous run and fed Fellaini whose brilliant cut-back El Traca just failed to convert.

QPR then got behind the Everton defence yet again and manged to hit both posts in an attack that incredibly failed to put then ahead, while at the other end Fellaini seemed to conjour a good chance but could not convert. But a pretty entertaining game with lost of goalmouth action at both ends!

Fellaini should have done better when gifted the ball but he looked for a pass rather than pressing the QPR goal. Some good possession football from Everton on occasions but it only led down cul-de-sacs. They failed to get a grip on the game as the hour-mark passed and Howard had to punch away another corner, while the appearance of Nikica Jelavic from the subs' bench was accompanied by Leon Osman, replacing Drenthe and Cahill.

Jelavic looked to get involved at every opportunity but nothing was coming off, while Buzsaky had a poke form 25 yards that went over for QPR, and Taarabt drove across Howard's goal but past the far post. The changes were meant to enliven a flagging Everton side but it was QPR who got the bit between their teeth while the Blues were far too lackadaisical when they did gain possession from the marauding Rangers.

Osman won a dangerous free-kick off Wright-Phillips that Baines swung in but Fellaini was offside in the follow-up. Pienaar and Baines were doing their best down the left but QPR were holding firm and effectively denying them space and usually preventing a telling final ball to the pair of big strikers,Jelavic and El traca, showing signs of starvation in the middle.

Into the final 15 mins and this one could go either way, with both teams fighting and scrapping to gain the ascendancy. A bizarre free-kick from Buzsaky saw him scoop the ball high over Howard's goal from a standing position...

Moyes seemed to call it quits with 2 mins left, swapping Stracqualursi for Coleman in an admission that this attempt at 4-4-2 had failed to yield the required end product in a disappointing second half for Blues fans. Fellaini did get a shot on Kenney but play was pulled back. Jelavic tried to dribble through but couldn't as a late Everton corner came to nothing.

An eight-game unbeaten run for Everton but no revenge for that dreadful opening loss at Goodison Park.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton are in Premier League action for the first time in three weeks following their success in the FA Cup fifth round against Blackpool and a fortnight's break that has allowed some of David Moyes's walking wounded to take large strides towards returning to the first team.

Indeed, with Nikica Jelavic, Jack Rodwell and Leon Osman all seeing action in midweek, Moyes looks likely to have rare breadth in his selection options for this weekend's trip to Queens Park Rangers, the team that got Moyes's season off to such a poor start when inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the Blues at Goodison Park back in August.

True to recent form, Everton under Moyes have found some form in the second half of the season and are well placed to mount a challenge for Europa League qualification, particularly now that the glut of injuries is easing as we heading into the final third of the campaign.

Arguably the most anticipated of those returning players is Jelavic who has been at Goodison for a month now but, thanks to a troublesome groin injury, has managed just half an hour's action for the Blues. The Croatian came through a substitute's appearance for Croatia in midweek and looks set to take his place on Everton's bench this weekend. A start, given his lack of match fitness and the form of Denis Stracqualursi is unlikely.

Osman (knee) and Rodwell (hamstring) played for the Reserves against Bolton as they look to return from medium-term injury layoffs and both will be hoping to join Jelavic in the squad with one of them possibly going straight back into the starting line-up. That's because Darron Gibson is ruled out with a knee injury he sustained in training with the Republic of Ireland last week. He could be out until the end of the month.

On the flanks, Steven Pienaar returns after being ineligible for the Blackpool tie and Royston Drenthe and Seamus Coleman will be vying for the starting berth on the right now that Landon Donovan has returned to the United States.

In defence, Phil Jagielka is making good progress with his own recovery from a knee injury but the visit to Loftus Road is probably too soon for him so Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga will continue in central defence.

Everton will be looking to further their recent run of form, particularly away from home where they have lost just once — that defeat coming at White Hart Lane in January — with what would be just their second win on QPR's home turf in their last six visits.

And Rangers' own home form lately will give the Blues cause for optimism. The Londoners have lost seven games at Loftus Road this season, had five players sent off and made a habit of throwing away points from winning positions.

They have strengthened since returning to the top flight with key purchases like Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bobby Zamora but they come into the weekend sitting a place above a tightly-packed bottom three on goal difference.

Djibril Cisse and Samba Diakite are both suspended after picking up red cards recently but Luke Young could return after missing two games with a hamstring injury.

Lyndon Lloyd

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QPR (4-4-2)
  Derry booked
  Taarabt (80' Mackie)
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Drenthe booked (62' Osman)
  Cahill (62' Jelavic)
  Stracqualursi (88' Coleman)
  Subs not used
  Anichbe (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Rodwell (injured)
  Abdullayev (loan)
  Bidwell (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Nsiala (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yobo (loan)

Premier League Scores
Blackburn 1-1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal
Man City 2-0 Bolton
QPR 1-1 Everton
Stoke 1-0 Norwich
West Brom 1-0 Chelsea
Wigan 0-2 Swansea
Fulham 5-0 Wolves
Newcastle 1-1 Sunderland
Tottenham - Man United


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