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Ian Cooper, at Loftus Road
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Premier League: QPR 0 Fulham 1
Fulham completed their second west London derby win of the season and victory over former manager Mark Hughes to deepen QPR’s relegation worries on Saturday.
Pavel Pogrebnyak hit his second goal in as many games after just seven minutes to seal the win for Fulham at Loftus Road, while Hughes’ decision to hand Samba Diakite’s his first Rangers start ended in disaster when the Mali international was sent off for a first-half foul on Bryan Ruiz.
Shaun Wright-Phillips wasted a golden opportunity to level late when he beat the offside trap but curled his shot agonisingly wide of the far post.
Fulham’s win might not have equalled the 6-0 defeat they inflicted on their rivals earlier this season, but it will feel every bit as sweet against the manager who quit Craven Cottage in the summer.
For QPR this ranks as perhaps the most worrying defeat of the entire campaign, coming after a two-week break which Hughes had hoped would improve the understanding among his new-look squad.
It was a frustrating afternoon in particular for Rs striker Bobby Zamora, who aside from one first-chance made little impact against the side from which he joined Rangers last month.
Hughes handed Diakite his first start since his arrival on loan from French side Nancy, while Andy Johnson, who scored a hat-trick for Fulham against the Rs in October, replaced Damien Duff.
After tame early efforts from Adel Taarabt and Taye Taiwo for Rangers which were easily gathered by Mark Schwarzer, it was Johnson who thought had broken the deadlock for the Cottagers.
John-Arne Riise was given time and space to deliver a cross from the left, which Jonson met at the near post with a powerful header past Paddy Kenny, only to see the goal ruled out for offside.
However, there was no such let-off for the home side minutes later. Moussa Dembele sent a cute backheel through to Pogrebnyak, and the Russia international pulled away from the Rs defence to calmly round Kenny and slot home his second goal for Fulham in as many games.
It was an early blow from which QPR never recovered, as Fulham set about dominating the first half, with Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz easily controlling the midfield exchanges.
It was that frustration which ended Diakite’s match on 33 minutes. Already booked, the midfielder went in heavily on Ruiz and earned a second booking and leaving QPR a man short.
That moment robbed QPR of the momentum which shortly beforehand seen Schwarzer deny Wright-Phillips’ low shot and keep out Zamora’s bundled rebound.
Fulham ended the first half as they started it, in almost complete control, with Danny Murphy almost adding a second goal with an angled drive which was beaten out by Kenny.
A second half produced few chances of note, with Clint Hill heading a corner over the bar.
Jamie Mackie came closer midway through the half with a charging run into the box which ended with his low shot flying across Schwarzer’s goal and wide.
Rangers’ chance of the match came inside the final eight minutes, when Taarabt’s through-ball found Wright-Phillips clear with just Schwarzer to beat, but his shot drifted inches wide.
Dickson Etuhu almost punished that miss by adding a second Fulham goal with a break from the halfway line, but dragged his shot wide with just Kenny to beat.
Four minutes of added time saw Rangers hammer at the door without creating any real opportunities, and Fulham held on to record just their second away win of the season.
Jol’s side will now have their eyes firmly on a top-10 finish, while for the Rs yet another home defeat ensures that the prospect of relegation is becoming ever more realistic.
QPR: Kenny, Diakite, Hill, Taarabt, Mackie, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Taiwo (Traore), Ferdinand, Onuoha, Zamora.
Subs: Cerny, Derry, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Traore, Buzsaky, Smith.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Kelly, Riise, Hangeland, Pogrebnyak, Johnson, Ruiz, Murphy, Hughes, Dempsey, Dembele.
Subs: Stockdale, Baird, Sa, Senderos, Duff, Etuhu, Frei.