Mutiny in the air at QPR as Southampton leave Hughes on the brink
Premier League: QPR 1 Southampton 3
Mark Hughes edged closer to the exit door at QPR as his side’s miserable start to the season continued with defeat to Southampton in a fractious atmosphere at Loftus Road.
QPR chairman Tony Fernandes had described this match as ‘must-win’ for Rangers, with Hughes fully aware that defeat in ‘El Sackico’ could spell the end of his reign in west London.
And Fernandes’ patience could be pushed to its limit after this disjointed performance against a struggling Southampton side who had lost every one of their previous five away games this season.
QPR are now 12 games without a win this season and as Southampton boss Nigel Adkins pumped his fists in celebration at the final whistle, Hughes was loudly booed by the angry home fans.
Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon had earlier put the visitors into a two-goal lead at half time and despite Junior Hoilett’s goal shortly after the break, QPR’s fate was sealed when Anton Ferdinand turned the ball into his own net in the closing stages.
Despite their desperate situation, bottom of the table QPR couldn’t summon a convincing performance, with Southampton the better side from start to finish.
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The first chances of the contest fell to Saints’ midfielder Adam Lallana, who twice went close in the opening 10 minutes.
After drilling a volley narrowly over from just outside the box, the 24-year-old couldn’t quite get a toe to Jason Puncheon’s whipped cross, which clipped Julio Cesar’s back post before spinning out of play.
But QPR’s Adel Taarabt took matters into his own hands after 15 minutes, jinking through Southampton’s bewildered defence and firing a diagonal shot which was well blocked by Saints’ goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
The Italian was called into action for a second time moments later, when he nervously fumbled Junior Hoilett’s low shot out for a corner.
But Southampton continued to threaten and got the breakthrough their daring attacking play deserved when Lambert headed home after 23 minutes.
The goal, Lambert’s fifth of the season, came from close range after Anton Ferdinand had repelled Puncheon’s shot on the goal line.
Hughes, prowling the touchline with a grimace, was duly greeted with a first chorus of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” from the buoyant away fans.
QPR struggled to carve out chances in reply and lacked cohesion going forward, with misplaced passes greeted with groans of frustration by the increasingly agitated home fans.
And things went from bad to worse for the hosts before the break, when Puncheon rifled home from the edge of the box to send Hughes trudging down the tunnel to deafening boos and the words “you don’t know what you’re doing” ringing in his ears.
With no room for error and knowing his job may well depend on a three-goal turnaround, Hughes threw on Jamie Mackie for Alejandro Faurlin at half time.
And the extra body up front seemed the shift the momentum in QPR’s favour, with Hoilett’s goal coming just four minutes in to the second half when slack Southampton marking allowed the Canadian – who stands at just 5ft 8in – freedom to head Taarabt’s cross past Gazzaniga.
The goal game as a relief for QPR, but the optimism gave way for frustration once again not long afterwards, with the menacing Puncheon flashing a powerful drive inches wide for Southampton.
Djibril Cisse then spurned a chance for the hosts before Puncheon came close yet again, his diagonal shot tipped wide by Cesar.
Despite the hosts’ desperate need for goals, it was Southampton who ramped up the pressure, defender Maya Yoshida coming close to a third with an acrobatic bicycle kick that was blocked by Cesar on 80 minutes.
And the Saints’ third, killer goal did arrive three minutes later, when Ferdinand diverted Morgan Schneiderlin’s low cross past Cesar.
Time had run out for QPR, and it seems it may well have done for Hughes too.
QPR: Cesar, Bosingwa (Fabio 74), Nelsen, Ferdinand, Traore, Diakite (Derry 71), Faurlin (Mackie 45), Granero, Hoilett, Taarabt, Cisse. Subs not used: Green, Wright-Phillips, Dyer, Ehmer.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Shaw (Fox 74), Yoshida, Cork, Ramirez (S Davis 62), Schneiderlin, Lallana, Puncheon, Lambert. Subs not used: K Davis, Hooiveld, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka.
Referee: Mike Dean