Taarabt’s trickery takes Rs back to pole position
ADEL Taarabt may polarise opinion among QPR fans but, love him or loathe him, the impact the Moroccan is having upon the Rs’ promotion push was evident in spades against Preston.
After Rob Hulse had given Rangers an early lead, it was Taarabt’s sumptuous second-half double which secured three points against the lowly Lilywhites, returning his side to the Championship summit as Cardiff slipped up against Nottingham Forest.
And while Taarabt’s unpredictable use of the ball continues to delight and frustrate almost in equal measure, it was undeniably his dynamic display in midfield which was the catalyst for a welcome win ahead of this weekend’s showdown with the Bluebirds.
Taarabt was the hub of a three-man attacking midfield for Rangers, but it was Spurs loanee Kyle Walker who took centre stage early on, setting up the opening goal for Hulse on four minutes.
Walker surged down the right, and delivered a cross into the six-yard box which keeper Andy Lonergan fumbled into the path of Hulse, who had the simple task of knocking home his first QPR goal since his move from Derby County in August.
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It should have been 2-0 when Jamie Mackie dispossessed Wayne Brown on the edge of the box, but Lonergan denied him, with Leon Clarke firing the rebound over the crossbar.
Kaspars Gorkss headed Taarabt’s corner high into the stand, as Rangers, despite almost total dominance, were forced to settle for a slim lead at half-time.
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Early in the second half Rs keeper Paddy Kenny was forced into his first serious save, denying Preston’s Adam Barton with his legs, and that stop proved crucial as Taarabt then single-handedly settled the match in stunning style.
Picking up possession 30 yards out, Taarabt advanced to the edge of the area and unleashed a curling right-foot shot over and around the helpless Lonergan into the top corner to double the Hoops’ lead.
Even better was to follow. After Hulse’s close-range header was cleared off the line, Taarabt weighed in with a second goal of arguably even greater quality than his first had been.
With the Preston defence once again backing off, Taarabt let fly from an almost identical position, this time his shot arrowing past Lonergan and ripping into the roof of the net.
With the game well and truly won, Rangers were then guilty of switching off before the end, and Preston pulled one back when Matt Connolly bundled a free-kick into his own net.
But that was all the visitors could manage, as Rangers extended their unbeaten league run to 18 games with one of their most comfortable wins of the season so far.