QPR 3 Stoke City 0
PUBLISHED: 13:50 03 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:13 24 August 2010
By Ben Kosky IF QPR could produce this kind of majestic performance on a regular basis, their ambitions would stretch much higher than a top-half finish. Rangers put Stoke to the sword with some dazzling football of the same ilk as that which subdued fell
By Ben Kosky
IF QPR could produce this kind of majestic performance on a regular basis, their ambitions would stretch much higher than a top-half finish.
Rangers put Stoke to the sword with some dazzling football of the same ilk as that which subdued fellow promotion hopefuls Watford and Bristol City in recent months.
But for Stoke goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, the margin of victory would have been even greater - although it should be said that Lady Luck was certainly wearing a hooped shirt.
Nothing went right for the Potters, who hit the woodwork twice at critical moments and then saw hopes of a second-half comeback scuppered by a harsh red card for skipper Andy Griffin.
Referee Andy D'Urso dismissed Griffin for a sliding challenge on Hogan Ephraim two minutes before half-time, although TV replays revealed that the Stoke man had won the ball first.
Rangers boss Luigi de Canio pointed out: "We were already winning 2-0 so I don't think it had a huge effect on the outcome of the game.
"What I saw looked like a fairly untidy challenge, but the rules state that the intention to foul somebody can also be punished by the referee. The same thing happened to [Dexter] Blackstock at Stoke."
The Rs had started poorly in that game at the Britannia Stadium back in November, but there was no such sluggishness on Sunday as Ephraim and Damien Delaney combined to set up Rowan Vine, but Ryan Shawcross blocked the finish.
Stoke were unlucky not to snatch the lead when Liam Lawrence's cross hit Mikele Leigertwood's knee and was tipped onto the crossbar by Lee Camp - but the midfielder's touch proved devastating for the visitors on 12 minutes.
Akos Buzsaky, foraging inside the Stoke half, tapped the ball inside to Leigertwood, who steadied himself and unleashed an unstoppable left-foot rocket into the bottom corner.
It was Buzsaky who created the second goal nine minutes later, floating a perfect cross onto the head of Vine and his knockdown dropped nicely for Leigertwood to crack another scorcher into the roof of the net.
Martin Rowlands' attempted chip sailed just wide and Leigertwood could have completed an unlikely hat-trick as he headed Michael Mancienne's cross into the gloves of Simonsen.
But Griffin's early exit was a greater blow to Stoke than the deficit - and they must have known their luck was out when Ricardo Fuller escaped from Fitz Hall and squeezed his shot past Camp, only to strike the outside of the post.
QPR continued to press for further goals after the interval and added a killer third on the counter-attack after Lawrence's 56th-minute free-kick had been cleared.
Vine scampered clear and Ephraim and Patrick Agyemang then fed the ball through to Buzsaky, who drilled it first time past Simonsen.
With Rangers exhibiting a swagger, it needed Simonsen's blocks from Rowlands, Vine and substitute Blackstock to ensure that his side were not overrun.
There are signs that the Rs' back line are beginning to weld themselves into a compact unit and they duly secured a clean sheet, but only after Camp's superb double stop to foil Glenn Whelan and Paul Gallagher.
"The team need to acquire the same mentality to face teams at the bottom as at the top and then we'll be complete," De Canio added. "There must always be the will to win against any opponents."
QPR: Camp; Mancienne, Hall (Stewart 78), Connolly, Delaney; Buzsaky, Rowlands (Ainsworth 81), Leigertwood, EPHRAIM*; Vine (Blackstock 75), Agyemang. Subs not used: Pickens, Lee.