QPR 2-2 Brighton: Austin the hero as Rs fightback for deserved point
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Charlie Austin notched a double as QPR fought back from two goals to secure a valuable point against league leaders Brighton at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
Quick-fire goals from Dale Stephens and Rajiv van La Parra after the break looked to have handed Chris Hughton’s side a 12th victory of the season, but Austin came to the rescue late on as he salvaged a well-earned point for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men.
Rangers welcomed the Seagulls to Loftus Road in buoyant mood after extending their recent unbeaten run with a creditable point in a goalless draw with Burnley on Saturday.
However, Brighton unsurprisingly also went into the game in bouyant mood, with Hughton’s men still unbeaten in the league this season and knew a win would keep them at the summit.
QPR looked determined to end this record and produced arguably their best performance of the season, and came out racing out of the blocks, producing some excellent football along the way.
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Austin, who after being used sparingly in the last few games following a return to injury, nearly made his inclusion pay dividents immediately after just three minutes on the clock.
After Sandro teed up the sought-after striker, the 26-year-old turned his marker before forcing a superb stop by David Stockdale after unleashing a powerful left-footed drive.
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Another of Rangers’s high profile assets Matt Phillips announced himself into the game five minutes later, when he picked up the ball on the right hand side before firing a fine left footed effort which was tipped over well by Stockdale.
The half was one way traffic with Brighton struggling to get any kind of foothold on the match, with their main threat coming in the form of Van La Parra but Konchesky stood to his task admirably.
Grant Hall then spurned a fantastic chance to put the R’s ahead but the defender could only head from Alejandro Faurlin’s superb delivery into the box.
QPR continued to pile on the pressure and after a swift and effective counter attack involving Austin and Leroy Fer, Phillips’ goal-bound shot from inside the box was superbly blocked off the line by Inigo Calderon.
Rangers’ fans were then left furious as their side were denied a huge penalty claim, as Austin’s curled effort appeared to strike the hand of centre-back Gordon Greer. For all their great football, particularly from the quartet of Fer, Austin, Phillips and Junior Hoilett, QPR failed to reflect their dominance in the score line, an ominous sign in football.
The second half started of with a less frantic pace than QPR imposed in the first and the R’s were soon made to pay for their lack of proficiency in front of goal as the Championship leaders took the lead.
There were warning signs for Rangers as Gabriele Angella defended well to squash a dangerous Brighton counter attack. However, from the resulting corner, Lewis Dunk headed the ball across the goal with Stevens using great improvisation to acrobatically volley and divert into the back of the net. QPR were left fuming that the goal was allowed to stand as it appeared Stevens had nudged Sandro in the back in the build-up to the goal.
Rs boss Hasslebaink responded to the set back by replacing Sandro with Karl Henry but Brighton had a response of their own. Winger Van La Parra, on-loan from Wolves, picked up the ball from 35 yards out before dispatching an excellent effort which took a deflection off Hall to evade Rob Green and give Brighton their second goal in as many minuted and seemingly putting them out of sight.
Rangers were shellshocked, with all their good work from the first half now standing to count for nothing, and almost conceded a third albeit for great defending by Hall.
Underdetered, Rangers showed great resolve and determination to get back into it, with their revival unsurprisingly spearheaded by Austin.
With 25 minuteds the home faithful finally head something to cheer about. Philips’s teasing cross from the right found the former Burley man, and after having his first effort blocked, Austin smashed home the loose ball to halve the deficit and renewed hope.
QPR continued to plug away and almost found an equaliser as Fer met Hall’s cross at the far post but could only header wide.
As the game neared a conclusion Bobby Zamora, QPR’s play-off goal hero from two seasons ago, came on to replace James Wilson for the visitors, receiving a rapturous response from both sets of fans in the process.
QPR made a change of their own, throwing on Sebastian Polter to replace Fer, and the striker should have made an immediate impact from a corner but he could only place a free header from six yards wide. Tempers then flared as Dunk launched into a reckless tackle against Faurlin, to which the Argentine reacted furiously to, and Dunk was given his second yellow card, reducing the leaders to ten men.
That man Austin then deservedly got the Rs level, with Phillips turning provider again from a corner, as the roof erupted at Loftus Road.
In a truly remarkable game, the fourth official announced seven minutes of added time and QPR sensed a winner was up for grabs.
Konchesky was almost the unlikely hero but Stockdale beat the full-back to a loose ball dangerously floating in the Brighton area, before Philips was inches away from becoming Rangers’ matchwinner, with his stunning solo effort looking destined for the far corner, only to clip the edge of the post and be diverted wide.
The referee finally brought this incredible game to an end and QPR will be pleased to have recovered from two goals down to claim a valuable point, the least they deserved, against Hughton’s men who who are now 21 games unbeaten.
However, after letting slip their two-goal lead on Tuesday night the Seagulls now lie second in the table, after title rivals Middlesbrough, who they face at the Amex on Saturday, secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Burnley.