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Sunday, December 23, 2007

QPR's Colchester Victory...QPR's New Wealth

SUNDAY TIMES/John Aizlewood - Rich Rangers cash in
QPR 2 Colchester 1:

Christmas came early to Loftus Road last week. Back in August, Queens Park Rangers were two weeks away from administration as they struggled to pay a £1.3m tax bill, a fraction of their £21m debt.

The bill was paid and after myriad boardroom shenanigans, Formula One refugees Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore took over, but manager John Gregory was soon fired in favour of Luigi De Canio, an erstwhile Napoli boss with a Capello-esque level of English. Yesterday, Rangers’ entertaining, if fortuitous, victory levered them off the bottom of the Championship for Christmas.

More surprisingly, Rangers also kicked off as rich as Croesus, or, at least Real Madrid after Lakshmi Mittal, who, with a net worth of £26 billion is Britain’s richest (and the world’s fifth richest) man bought a 20% stake and installed his son-in-law, Amit Bhatia, on the board alongside Ecclestone (worth £2.6 billion) and Briatore (a trifling £60m). “Our ultimate ambition,” noted Bhatia, “is the Premiership.”

Afterwards De Canio was ambivalent. “I didn’t know about the new investment until I read about it,” he explained. “I don’t discuss matters of this nature with the owners, but I have no problem with the pressures it may bring.”

“It ended up being quite a difficult encounter,” added De Canio. “I’m pleased, though. We’ve been working hard and it’s paying off.

“I do believe the team has it in them to play the entire 90 minutes the way they played in the first half.”

Perhaps those least pleased with the week’s events are the current crop of players, who must look forward to January with the same relish that turkeys approach December 25.

Indeed, staying in the Championship is far from assured. Against a spirited Colchester United, their replacements at the bottom of the table, Rangers had their moments, chiefly when flying winger Rowan Vine hurtled past permanently bamboozled full-back Bela Balogh.

After 26 minutes, just as the home players were squabbling in the manner of those whose livelihoods are threatened the world over, Rangers slid ahead, courtesy of the cultured Akos Buzsaky, the one outfield player aside from Vine who can look to the future with confidence.

The hungry Hungarian collected an innocent-looking throw-in 20 yards out, pirouetted like Carlos Acosta and curled a delightful opener past Dean Gerken. “One-nil to the billionaires,” chanted the home support, already accustomed to their new status.

Buzsaky won it in the 51st minute when he tucked home with insouciant aplomb after neat work from Vine and Dexter Blackstock.

After that, the traffic was one way as the prospect of their first victory since the first week of November sent Rangers into panic mode. Already guilty of a glaring miss, Sheringham hit the bar when Lee Camp dropped Mark Yeates’s cross at the 41-year-old’s aged feet. Then, Camp saved brilliantly after Luke Guttridge had powered his way through a terrified defence. Just after the hour, they pulled one back when Zesh Rehman’s stumble allowed Yeates to nip in and fire past Camp.

Colchester manager Geraint Williams was left to rue a late penalty decision which went against his team after Kevin Lisbie appeared to be felled in the penalty area, only to be booked for diving.

“It looked like a penalty to me but that’s referees’ decisions, you have them every week,” he said. “But I’ve never yet seen a striker look to dive when he’s got round the back and is clean through on goal, but the referee obviously thought he did.

“In the first half we didn’t look anything like ourselves,” Williams added. “We looked a better side in the second half but we’d already given ourselves too much to do.”

Damion Stewart getting himself sent off for a second bookable offence hardly helped steady QPR’S frayed nerves, but the new billionaires held on and, with heart-warming serendipity, once Christmas has passed they can look forward to an FA Cup visit at their pauper neighbours, Chelsea.

Star man: Rowan Vine (QPR)

Player ratings. QPR: Camp 6, Barker 6, Stewart 5, Rehman 5, Malcolm 6, Vine 8, Leigertwood 7 (Walton 75min), Bolder 5, Buzsaky 8, Ainsworth 6, Blackstock 5 (Nygaard 75min)

Colchester: Gerken 7, Granville 6, Virgo 6, Baldwin 5 (Guy 87min), Balogh 4, Jackson 7, Izzet 6 (Guttridge 36min, 6), Sheringham 6 (Lisbie 71min), Yeates 7, Platt 6, McLeod 6
Scorers: QPR: Buzsaky 26, 51
Colchester: Yeates 62 Sunday Times

THE OBSERVER -Jason Toma - Rangers revel in their new riches

In a week in which QPR found themselves being dubbed the richest club in world football, it was fitting that their on-loan Hungarian international Akos Buzsaky should play a starring role in the 2-1 win over Colchester that lifted them off the bottom of the Championship and also out of the relegation zone. The ingenious Buzsaky, who will become the first of their expected big-money signings when he joins permanently from Plymouth for £500,000 in January, again emphasised his class by scoring twice.
One wonders how much better he will be when Lakshmi Mittal's investment in the club, combined with that of their owners Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, brings a transformation of the team in other departments. His opening goal yesterday came when he collected Bob Malcolm's throw-in, turned on the edge of the Colchester penalty area and beat the keeper with a superb left-foot curling shot. The goal prompted chants of '1-0 to the billionaires' from the home faithful, and it was a similar story when Buzsaky made it 2-0 after a delightful one-two with Dexter Blackstock. That brought his recent goal total to five in 10 matches. However, QPR were forced to live on their nerves at the finish after Mark Yeates had reduced the arrears and QPR's Damion Stewart sent off. The Observer

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH - Akos Buzsaky gives QPR crucial lift
By Andrew Warshaw

Fabio Capello isn't the only Italian manager with limited grasp of English charged with restoring the fortunes of an under-achieving side. Luigi de Canio may not be in the national spotlight like his compatriot, but for supporters of Queens Park Rangers, his task is no less important.

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Before replacing John Gregory at Loftus Road on a two-year contract, De Canio had kept unheralded Siena in Serie A for two seasons, after working at Udinese, Reggina and Genoa. His latest challenge is to prevent Rangers - once one of the country's most fashionable clubs - from falling into the third tier of English football.

Yesterday his new charges carved out a crucial win in a classic six-pointer, moving out of the bottom three for only the second time in almost four months thanks to a goal in each half from Hungarian midfielder Akos Buzsaky, a flair player befitting the No 10 shirt worn in the past by the likes of Rangers legends Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh.

"Two-nil to the billionaires," the fans sang in reference to not only Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore bankrolling Rangers, but also news that the family of one of the world's richest men, the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, had bought a 20 per cent stake in the club. Several new signings are expected in the transfer window to push Rangers higher up the league.

"This is a huge professional development for me," De Canio said through the use of an interpreter, just as Capello does. "As far as my English goes, I can get my message across to players far better than I can to journalists. My job, and that of Capello, are very different, but I am very happy here. I think something very big can come out of this whole experience."

As for Colchester, who took the place of Rangers at the foot of the table, dropping out of this division would be just as unthinkable, given their £14.2 million investment in a new stadium. Not even Teddy Sheringham could save them yesterday, with the old maestro, now 41, fluffing two excellent chances. His team were unlucky not to salvage a point late on, though, when they battered Rangers after Mark Yeates had cut the deficit and Damion Stewart, the home side's defender, was sent off....
Sunday Telegraph

Sunday Mirror/Graham Otway - Football: Buzsaky is one in a billion
Fighting spirit is one commodity that steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal's billions will not be able to buy once he hands over the cash for QPR to spend in the transfer window.
Yet, judging by 10-man Rangers' gutsy display in beating fellow strugglers Colchester, they do not need it.
On-loan Hungarian Akos Buzsaky, who will join permanently from Plymouth for £500,000 next month, provided a sign of things to come with two fine goals. scored either side of half-time, to lift Rangers out of the bottom three for the first time since September 1.
However, the last 10 minutes demanded a frantic effort after the ludicrous sending off of Damion Stewart for a tackle on Mark Yeates, when he clearly took the ball first.
Colchester, who had pulled a goal back through Yeates after a flick-on from Sheringham, went forward looking for an equaliser, but Rangers held out to the delight of manager Luigi De Canio.
He said: "We have been working hard on defence in the last couple of weeks and it's paying off."
Buzsaky's goals were both superbly taken; the first a fierce left-foot shot, the second a slick finish after stylish play from Rowan Vine and Dexter Blackstock.
Colchester, though, paid dearly for Sheringham's out-of-sorts day. The former England striker missed four chances, including one from a yard out when he hit the post.
Manager Geraint Williams said: "Conceding a second goal shortly after the interval left us with a mountain to climb."
QPR Camp 7, Malcolm 5, Rehman 7, Stewart 6, Barker 6, Ainsworth 6, BUZSAKY 9, Leigertwood 6 (Wilson 5), Bolder 6, Pine 6, Blackstock 6 (Nygaard 5).
Manager De Canio 7
COLCHESTER Gerken 7, Balogh 4, Baldwin 6 (Guy 5), Virgo 6, Granville 5, Yeates 7, Jackson 6, Izzet 5 (Guttridge 5), McLeod 5, Platt 4, Sheringham 4 (Lisbie 5).
Manager Williams 5
Referee D Whitestone 4
Scored two goals of the highest quality. Sunday Mirror

Also: Earlier Reports - "QPR Scrape A Victory: Reports and Comments"

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