Loïc Rémy made an instant impact on his first appearance in English football, but the star of the show was Joe Cole, a Premier League veteran, who scored his first goal in a decade for West Ham.
For most of the match, a classy strike from Rémy, backed by a determined display by goalkeeper Julio Cesar and his defenders, looked as if it might give Queens Park Rangers a win they would scarcely have deserved, but Cole equalised to bring a semblance of sanity to the score.
Cole was a target for QPR’s manager, Harry Redknapp, who gave him his debut when in charge at West Ham, before Cole returned to Upton Park from Liverpool. “I could have got Joe, and I wanted him, but I just felt we took too long to get it sorted, and once West Ham came in, he was only ever going to come here,” he said. “It’s his home, it’s where he started.”
Redknapp has still lost only once in 13 matches against West Ham since being dismissed as the club’s manager. But the draw left QPR at the foot of the Premier League table despite a run of three unbeaten matches, all London derbies. “It’s a point gained. There are still enough games, there’s a long way to go,” he said.
West Ham have won only one match in nine in all competitions, but the dominance of their performance was some comfort to Sam Allardyce, their manager. “It was an encouraging performance,” he said. “We couldn’t have created more chances in 90 minutes.
“But however dominant we were, the one thing that matters is the score, and it’s 1-1. We have to be massively frustrated that we haven’t made that performance into three points. We are in our worst period for picking up points, but you say to the players that if you continue playing like that you’ll win more than you draw.”
West Ham began as they meant to go on, forcing QPR back, and Cesar defied them twice in the sixth minute. First he blocked Winston Reid’s close-range effort when Mohamed Diamé fired a cross to the near post, then he gor his knee in the way of Kevin Nolan’s first-time shot from four yards after Reid had nodded on Cole’s corner from the right.
So it was already well against the run of play when Rangers broke out to take the lead. Adel Taarabt ran at the defence and played a brilliantly weighted pass off the outside of his foot through the back four. Rémy had timed his run perfectly to stay onside and ran on, taking the ball early to strike a low shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen – a goal of the sort of quality that marks out a player worth the £8 million that Redknapp is reported to have paid Marseille.
West Ham tried to hit back, but Cesar was handling cleanly, and Howard Webb turned down two strong claims for penalties for challenges on Marouane Chamakh on his first start for West Ham since joining them on loan from Arsenal.
The second half followed a similar pattern. Cole took Chamakh’s pass and fired for the far corner, Cesar saving well, as he did when Chamakh headed goalwards, Ryan Nelsen blocking when Diamé fired the rebound back towards the net before Nolan put the ball over the bar.
At that point, with the visitors showing all the fighting spirit and relish for the unglamorous side of the game that was missing earlier in the season – Clint Hill, Nelsen and Shaun Derry in particular – Allardyce must have wondered if it was one of those days. But an equaliser finally came after 68 minutes when Carlton Cole, on as substitute for Chamakh, leapt to meet the latest of a stream of crosses from Matt Jarvis on the left. His downward header was saved by Cesar, but Cole converted the rebound from three yards out for his first goal in claret and blue since a home game against Newcastle United on 11 January 2002. “He’s pleased, but disappointed that we haven’t won,” Allardyce said. “We put in 46 crosses, so you’re giving the front men a chance, but they don’t score enough goals.”
West Ham went for the winner and Stéphane Mbia blocked a volley from Reid, and when Joe Cole went round Cesar at the death, Fabio recovered to clear.
“I couldn’t say we deserved to win, that would be nonsense, wouldn’t it?” Redknapp said. “We have to try to play with a bit more quality. You have to be bold enough to try to play with the ball. Spirit and effort will only take you so far. You need quality.”
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Tomkins, O’Brien; Noble, Diamé; J Cole, Nolan (Vaz Te, 89), Jarvis; Chamakh (C Cole, 62).
QPR (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Fabio; Mbia, Derry; Mackie (Bothroyd, 67), Taarabt (Park, 82), Wright-Phillips (Traoré, 58); Rémy.
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Joe Cole (West Ham)
Match rating: 7/10