Crystal Palace 3 QPR 0: Kuqi shoots down Rangers

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The Independent Online

A third inept performance in a week brought Queen's Park Rangers their third defeat. The west Londoners' retreat from the relegation zone had been gathering pace but they have suddenly slowed up, largely thanks to some remarkably slack defending.

Faced here with Shefki Kuqi, that defence looked porous, with the former Blackburn Rovers striker, a £1m summer signing, finally producing a return on that investment.

Crystal Palace's first goal arrived with their first genuine attack, and it displayed the jitters at the heart of QPR's back line. "Fragile," observed John Gregory, the visiting manager.

With 12 minutes gone, a long kick by Iain Turner found Kuqi, who gave his marker Damion Stewart a torrid afternoon. The Finnish international reached the byline and his cut-back found Dougie Freedman, who tucked his shot low past Simon Royce.

The QPR goalkeeper was blameless for that goal but had to admit a large degree of culpability for the second, as Kuqi's under-strength shot went through his legs.

It was not as if the visitors, who lost their previous two games against Sunderland and Coventry, were short of chances. They just could not take any, with Martin Rowlands missing twice in quick succession.

Then, five minutes from time, Tom Soares found Palace substitute Clinton Morrison, who converted from five yards out.

The Palace manager, Peter Taylor, was delighted with Kuqi's performance and felt it heralded brighter things for the club. "He was immense. He's answered every question after that big transfer fee. Now I feel we can get into the play-offs."

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