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Queens Park Rangers won a Barclays Premier League game at the 17th time of asking, dispatching west London rivals Fulham 2-1 to move off the bottom of the table.
Adel Taarabt proved the difference at Loftus Road as Harry Redknapp’s side belatedly broke their duck with a narrow victory against their near neighbours.
The Morocco midfielder proved a thorn in Fulham’s side from the outset and saw an effort deflect in off Brede Hangeland seven minutes into the second half. Taarabt doubled QPR’s advantage with an exquisite solo effort and they held on for three points despite substitute Mladen Petric’s late strike.
Djibril Cisse was one of three QPR changes made for the game and he almost made an immediate impact, forcing Mark Schwarzer into action moments after kick-off. The Frenchman was played through by Taarabt, who appeared fired up and came close from 40 yards in just the second minute.
It proved the start of a QPR onslaught, with Cisse firing wide before Jamie Mackie passed up a chance to break the deadlock when latching on to a poor John Arne Riise backpass. A marauding Taarabt run through the middle ended in a strike that tested Schwarzer as QPR continued to show a level of skill and spirit rarely seen this season.
Fulham were struggling to get a foothold on proceedings but were almost gifted an opener by goalkeeper Robert Green. Redknapp stuck with the England international despite the return of Julio Cesar from a groin injury but Green sent a miskick straight to Hugo Rodallega. However, the Fulham attacker could not make the most of the chance.
The home supporters were given something to shout about when the game restarted for the second half. Stephen Kelly came on for Sascha Riether when play resumed, with QPR taking just seven minutes to score their first goal against Fulham since 1983.
Taarabt burst forward and this time his strike took a lucky deflection of Hangeland, wrong-footing Schwarzer and trickling into the net. The playmaker was booked for his celebrations but it could not stop QPR’s momentum, with Cisse curling just wide in the 60th minute after Chris Baird was dispossessed.
Fulham were rarely threatening the hosts, who got their second when Taarabt burst through in the 68th minute. After picking up the ball just inside the Fulham half, the midfielder went past Hangeland and showed a few neat touches, before putting it past Schwarzer with the outside of his right foot.
Fulham’s frustrations were clear in a match in which they failed to assert their authority, with Steve Sidwell and substitute Ashkan Dejagah soon picking up bookings. The former will miss the trip to Liverpool next week as it was fifth yellow card of the season.
Petric ensured a tense finale when his strike deflected in off Mackie’s outstretched leg but, at the other end, Schwarzer clawed out a goalbound Cisse header at the death as QPR went on to secure victory, leading to raucous celebrations at the final whistle.
Fulham manager Martin Jol: “We should have played better for the supporters. But we didn’t take the initiative and didn’t deserve anything today. We’re very disappointed with our style of play. If you don’t concede you have a result. I can complain about the goals but, especially first half, we never earned the right to use our quality.
“We didn’t get the ball to our quality players and we looked a bit rigid, a bit static. It’s not our attitude or application – our intentions were good – but we didn’t get in the flow. QPR were first to the ball all the time. Every ball we played forward was intercepted. They had a bit of quality as well.
“They had [Adel] Taarabt today and you need to do something special. But we gave him the opportunity to shine and that is irritating. Football is simple, but we couldn’t do the simple things. We couldn’t play in the flow.
“Dimitar Berbatov did well in spells but he can’t do it all on his own. I gave 10 out of the 11 players who started on Monday night a chance but too many players were not there. We had five or six players who weren’t as well as they could be. These are players who can dictate games.
“The second goal for example, was a mistimed tackle, so it was very cheap. And the first was a deflection. We tried to get in their half but our passing was sloppy and they could break us.”
QPR manager Harry Redknapp: “It was an outstanding performance today. There were some real heroes out there. It was well deserved today, we were the better team. It would have been a gross injustice if we hadn’t won the game.
We’ve played well in all the games [since I took over], had three draws and now we’ve got our first win. Six points from four games is good form by anyone’s standard and we’ve deserved them.
“Taarabt is an amazing talent. I wanted to get him in that area off the front where he can play and do damage in between the lines and he did that today. Every time he picked up the ball he did the most amazing things. Everything he did today was top class and the goals were the icing on the cake.”
|22 Dec 2012||v Newcastle (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v West Brom (H)|
|30 Dec 2012||v Liverpool (H)|
|02 Jan 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Spurs (H)|
|19 Jan 2013||v West Ham (A)|