Match report: Charlie Adam's first goal for Stoke leaves Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes facing toughest week
Stoke 1 Queens Park Rangers 0
Sunday 11 November 2012
If Mark Hughes did not have one match left to save his job ahead of Queens Park Rangers' last home fixture, it is difficult not to suspect he is in that position now.
Hughes survived last weekend's 1-1 draw against Reading despite his players being jeered off the field and even won a declaration of confidence from chairman Tony Fernandes, reiterated at lunchtime by chief executive Philip Beard.
But a seventh defeat for QPR under Hughes, for whom they have yet to register a win this season, leaves them bottom of the Premier League. The team they replaced, Southampton, are the visitors to Loftus Road next Saturday. Should the hosts fail to win that one, it would take a patient chairman to resist the obvious reaction.
The key problem for Hughes is that his luck is plainly out. Rangers were the better side yesterday but nothing they tried would come off.
Adel Taarabt posed problems for Stoke, as did Junior Hoilett and Esteban Granero in a fluid midfield, but when the chances came they were not taken, sometimes due to Asmir Begovic's heroics in the Stoke goal but on other occasions because they made poor decisions.
Nothing summed up their plight more tellingly than the chance Taarabt squandered just before half-time, at which point neither side had managed a shot on target and the match was finely balanced.
A mistake by Glenn Whelan, with a careless lateral pass, gave Rangers possession, and it was Hoilett who saw the opportunity, exchanging passes with Djibril Cissé and spotting Taarabt's run into clear space on the right. Hoilett's pass was weighted perfectly but Taarabt went for finesse instead of power as Begovic moved towards him and his attempt to chip the goalkeeper sailed over the bar. He held his head in his hands, with most of the visiting fans following suit.
"We've got to take those chances," Hughes said afterwards. "In fairness to Adel I have played him through the middle and I thought he was really effective. He understood what was required, got in between the lines and caused Stoke some real problems.
"But you know at those points in a game that if you don't take your chances you might concede going the other way and, in the event, we made one mistake at the back and got punished for it.
"It is disappointing because, like a number of games we have played in this season, we have been the better side and played some good football but the key is to win games and, to do that, you have to take your chances."
Indeed, more followed, after Stoke had gone ahead to register only their second Premier League win so far this season, with Begovic saving both a deflected shot by Taarabt and a powerful effort from Granero, set up by Taarabt.
Tony Pulis, Stoke's manager, endorsed Hughes's assessment, having been rewarded for a performance from his team that conspicuously lacked redeeming features but which nonetheless produced a goal.
"We have played better in all of our 10 previous games," Pulis conceded. "We have played games this season where we should never have lost and, if you speak to Mark, he will be disappointed that they have come away with nothing."
The goal, created by a Robert Huth free-kick from the left headed on to the far post by Jonathan Walters, was a moment for Charlie Adam to savour, ending a goal drought for the former Liverpool midfielder that had lasted more than a year.
"I'm pleased for Charlie," Pulis added. "We've moved him around a bit to try to get him positions to score and thank goodness today he has come up with the goods."
Stoke (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington (Kightly, 70); Adam (Whitehead, 76); Crouch.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Traoré; Diakité, Faurlin (Zamora, 78); Granero, Taarabt, Hoilett; Cissé.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Grenero (QPR)
Match rating: 5/10
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