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Nigel Adkins’ Southampton won their first match in the Barclays Premier League as Mark Hughes saw his Queen Park Rangers’ winless start to the campaign extend to a 12th match. QPR and Southampton had conceded 49 Premier League goals between them before the game and the hosts’ defence was breached 23 minutes in as Rickie Lambert bundled home his fifth of the season. The home side found themselves further behind at the end of the first half as Jason Puncheon returned to haunt the club he spent a loan spell with last season, firing in from the edge of the box.
The hosts came out rejuvenated for the second period, with Junior Hoilett clawing one back four minutes in. That, though, was to be as good as it got for QPR as Southampton wrapped up victory when Anton Ferdinand deflected in Morgan Schneiderlin’s late cross.
Southampton were quicker to settle and captain Adam Lallana came close in the seventh minute, firing just over after a neat one-two with Gaston Ramirez. Saints had another chance as Puncheon’s cross evaded Lallana in the box and clipped the far post. While the visitors were enjoying the lion’s share of possession, they were looking shaky at the back. Adel Taarabt broke through in between Nathaniel Clyne and Jose Fonte, before forcing Paulo Gazzaniga into a quick reaction save.
Saints returned to the attack in the 22nd minute, when Lallana’s ball across the six-yard box was cleared behind for a corner from which Lambert saw an effort deflect behind. The striker was not to be denied for long and when the resulting corner was not cleared properly, Ramirez pulled back for Fonte, whose shot was prodded goalwards by Puncheon. That effort was cleared off the line but Lambert showed his strength to bundle the ball over the line.
Saints continued to press forward after the opener, although their defence was still looking uneasy as Djibril Cisse and Hoilett threatened to level. Southampton players claimed a handball against Ryan Nelsen and Jack Cork tested Julio Cesar as they pushed for another, which came on the stroke of half-time. Puncheon started the move on the right and, when he collected the ball from Clyne, turned Alejandro Faurlin to produce a left-footed strike.
At the break Hughes replaced Faurlin with Jamie Mackie when play resumed. The west Londoners began brightly and, after Gazzaniga dealt with a Cisse volley, they reduced the deficit. Taarabt floated in a cross and lost his man, allowing Hoilett to nod in unchallenged in the 49th minute.
Southampton came back and Puncheon forced Julio Cesar to save and then provided a cross that Lambert came close to turning home. Lambert and Schneiderlin were thwarted with long-range efforts before Ferdinand did well to stop Ramirez getting through on goal.
After scuffing wide, Puncheon came close with a drilled effort and then saw a low effort from an acute angle tipped wide by Cesar. The game was flowing from end to end and the Brazilian goalkeeper had to be at his best to deny a Maya Yoshida scissor-kick 10 minutes from time.
Nelsen headed straight at Gazzaniga moments later and then Saints secured victory, with Puncheon playing a short corner to Schneiderlin for the Frenchman’s cross to squeeze in off Ferdinand at Cesar’s near post.
Queen Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes: "Yes, without a shadow of a doubt [it was the worst QPR performance of my time in charge]. Today there was not that intensity. We weren't on the front foot, we weren't anticipating anything, we weren't aggressive enough. All the fundamentals that you need to build a performance [were not there].
"Maybe the anxiety of the significance of the game filtered through to them but, come on, the vast majority of them are very experienced. It shouldn't affect them in that manner and it surprised me that possibly it did. I can well understand the reaction [from the fans]. In fairness, it was exactly my reaction to that performance.
"We are not going to hide or try to make it positive out of a very big negative because it was a huge game for everybody connected with Queens Park Rangers, including myself, players, staff and fans.
"We have not performed, unfortunately, so when that happens it puts us in a situation that no-one anticipated this year but we are where we are."
"This is a huge challenge. It was a huge challenge in January when I undertook it. There weren't too many people queuing up when I decided it was the right role for me. I knew it was going to be problematic. We all understood that. This year we obviously had real expectations and I was quite prepared to raise expectations because we would have a good season. It hasn't quite happened, unfortunately, and because we have raised expectations more people are disappointed."
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins: "It was a good performance from us again today and it culminated in the three points we were after. It shows a good growing maturity about the players as well. We've come away from home and picked up three good points.
"You're in the Premier League and every game brings its own pressures, its own demands. We're after winning games of football. We're after developing the players. You could see again that we have players that are maturing all the time. There were some really good performances.
“We had a good defensive shape about ourselves today. We know we can score goals, we scored three goals away from home. There is a confidence growing all the time amongst the players we've got.”
|24 Nov 2012||v Man Utd (A)|
|27 Nov 2012||v Sunderland (A)|
|01 Dec 2012||v Aston Villa (H)|
|08 Dec 2012||v Wigan (A)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Fulham (H)|
|22 Dec 2012||v Newcastle (A)|