They are grateful for small mercies down Shepherds Bush way these days and taking a point from a team with serious Champions’ League ambitions was received sufficiently well to merit a standing ovation from the home crowd, aware that Queens Park Rangers were off the bottom of the Premier League table, for a couple of hours at least.
From the visitors’ end almost the only applause appeared to be from those supporters trying to get their circulation going again in the bitter cold. Tottenham had not played particularly badly – they had 60 per cent of the possession and 16 shots to four – but on a weekend when Manchester City are playing Arsenal this was a missed opportunity. Andre Villas-Boas, the apprentice manager to Harry Redknapp’s sorcerer, would not admit it. “Drawing away in the Premier League is always positive in some ways,” he said. “We wanted to win but it was important to unlock them by scoring the first goal.”
Had that goal come when Jermain Defoe hit a post early on, the pattern would doubtless have been different. As it was, Rangers were able to keep things tight in the manner of their stunning recent victory at Chelsea, the first of three games without defeat. Redknapp was unrepentant. “It’s no good us saying we’re going to rip Tottenham to pieces,” he said. “I played 4-4-2 against Liverpool and we got ripped to pieces. Then at Chelsea we went there with a different mindset and came away with three points. This is a great point for us and I couldn’t have asked for more effort. Everyone stuck to the jobs we gave them against a top-class team.”
The hope of striking lucky again rested largely with the enigmatic Adel Taarabt, who is not a natural centre-forward but has been playing there now that Redknapp, deprived of the injured Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson, does not trust Djbril Cissé to perform the role. The Moroccan never came close to scoring himself, and his free-kicks were particularly ineffective, but significantly he set up the three half-chances his team had, all with through-passes for Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The better opportunities were Tottenham’s. They found the Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar in outstanding form, which had frustrated Redknapp when he lost here 1-0 with Spurs last season, but delighted him yesterday. “He’s a world-class goalkeeper, you don’t play in a Champions’ League-winning team if you’re not,” said the QPR manager.
The proof was his save in the fifth minute to prevent that crucial early break for Tottenham. Defoe smacked a shot against the post but Emmanuel Adebayor, collecting the rebound, chose to round a defender before shooting, giving Julio Cesar the chance to pull off a superb save.
There was little incident before the interval. Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale switched wings without any success and Sandro departed after twisting a knee with neither friend or foe close to him, Scott Parker substituting. Villas-Boas said later the damage was not severe.
Whatever the manager said at half-time, Spurs came out with a 10-minute burst, only to drop off again. Julio Cesar held Bale’s floated free-kick, Parker drove just over, and when Fabio da Silva clipped Lennon just outside the penalty area, Kyle Walker hit the free- kick just above the angle of post and bar. The goalkeeper thwarted Defoe again but that was just about that.
It certainly was for Adebayor, who immediately after wasting a clever flick from Defoe made way for Clint Dempsey and then set off for the warmer climes of the Africa Cup of Nations.
“We’ve been extremely successful with Dempsey and Defoe in the past and we can be in future,” Villas-Boas said. However, they did not conjure another Tottenham opportunity between them in the remaining 20 minutes.
QPR (4-3-3): Julio Cesar; Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Fabio; Mbia, Derry, Park; Mackie, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon (Sigurdsson, 79), Dembélé, Sandro (Parker, 25), Bale; Defoe, Adebayor (Dempsey, 69).
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Julio Cesar
Match rating: 4/10