Mackie brace not enough to upset Rovers
Blackburn Rovers 3 Queens Park Rangers 2: Hosts cling on after poor first half means there is no happy return for their former manager Hughes
Sunday 12 February 2012
Pre-match promises tend to rebound on managers, particularly on the back of 7-1 defeats. Yet the course of this match did not hint at embarrassment for Steve Kean until Jamie Mackie scored his and the visitors' second goal in stoppage time. Blackburn, Kean had insisted, would "get out of the blocks and set the record straight" after last week's humiliation at the Emirates and while the margin was not as comprehensive as it had threatened to be he was vindicated in the end.
Given Blackburn's nine home defeats, four of them in the last five matches, it would have seemed a risky statement even without the 7-1 drubbing by Arsenal. By half-time, however, Kean's team had made nonsense of any thought of a victorious return to Ewood Park for Mark Hughes, the former Blackburn manager. Rovers were three up and Hughes had a face like thunder.
Kean knew his side would "make it tough" for the visitors, he said, after watching their response during a full week of training. They had "an appetite to get that defeat out of their system," he said.
Hughes might wish his players had shown a similar appetite for defending, especially during that first half when Blackburn evaded their challenges with so little effort it was easy to see why Rangers have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 16 successive matches, equalling their worst run in the top flight.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni set the ball rolling after 14 minutes. The Nigerian had missed the last three games through suspension but did not lack for sharpness when Steven Nzonzi's header opened up a chance. He turned Anton Ferdinand and drove the ball firmly past Paddy Kenny for his 13th goal of the Premier League campaign.
After 22 minutes, Nzonzi made it 2-0, advancing from the halfway line, feeding Junior Hoilett on the left and continuing his run to take the return pass, demonstrating at the end of it that he can finish with equal aplomb.
Hughes looked baffled. Apart from a back-to-goal flick from Bobby Zamora that almost crept in there was nothing by way of measurable response from his team. Blackburn had not been in complete control but when Hoilett's diagonal shot went in off Nedum Onouha in first-half stoppage time there seemed little doubt it was their day.
By the end, though, they were not looking quite so secure. Hughes was in no mood to suffer a humiliation on his own on his old stamping ground and it was a different Rangers that emerged in the second half. "The first half was the poorest I have had from any team I have been in charge of, to be honest," Hughes said. "It was completely unacceptable. You can't give a Premier League team that kind of start and you should not have two halves with such a contrast.
"We can take some comfort from the second half but the players have to understand that we can't be so fundamentally flawed as we were in the first half and expect to win games."
Mackie was particularly effective, scoring within five minutes of his introduction when he turned home Taye Taiwo's cross, after which, Kean admitted "we had a bit of a wobble". Fortunately for him, Mackie's second – a cracker from the edge of the box on the right – came just too late to turn this one into something worse.
Blackburn (4-1-4-1): Robinson; Orr, Dann, Hanley, Olsson; Nzonzi; Pedersen, Lowe, Formica (Modeste, 66), Hoilett (Henley, 50); Yakubu (Goodwillie, 89).
QPR (4-4-1-1): Kenny; Onuora, Hall (Gabbidon, 90), Ferdinand, Taiwo; Wright-Phillips, Barton, Buzsaky (Mackie, 66), Traore; Taraabt; Zamora..
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Nzonzi (Blackburn).
Match rating 7/10.
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