Match Report: Harry Redknapp cock-a-hoop after QPR's longest wait
Queens Park Rangers 2 Fulham 1
Queens Park Rangers have waited longer than any since the formation of the Premier League to celebrate their first win of a season but finally the wait is over.
Harry Redknapp’s men took three points at the 17th attempt thanks to two goals from Adel Taarabt that gave them an advantage Fulham could not surmount despite a fight-back.
The victory took them off the foot of the table, above Reading, who host Arsenal tomorrow, and made Redknapp’s first meeting with Tony Fernandes, the owner, after the match, a positive one. “It keeps us in there,” Redknapp said. “If we hadn’t won today it would have been absolutely desperate.
“We’re not kidding ourselves – we’ve had one win. But we’re on a good run, we’ve had four games [since Redknapp took over] and taken six points. If we can take six points out of every four games, you’ll stay up. The people here deserve it because they are nice people.”
Redknapp had called for blood, sweat and tears from his underachieving players, and they certainly delivered the sweat. They ran hard from the first blast of the referee’s whistle, none harder than Taarabt, who deserved the luck that brought him the breakthrough goal, when his shot was deflected in by Brede Hangeland, the Fulham defender.
But there was also a moment of skill from the Moroccan, his second strike the result of an enterprising run and an ambitious finish. It will make life all the more difficult for Redknapp if, as seems likely, Taarabt departs for several weeks on international duty at the African Cup of Nations in January.
“If he gets picked, which he will do, he will have to go,” Redknapp said. “I don’t know what the answer is to that one. He has fantastic ability, he was amazing today. We’ve all seen it, since I went to Tottenham and he was a player there. He has been playing out on the left but today I played him off the front man and every time we got him on the ball they were in trouble.”
It helped QPR’s cause that Fulham were not the team that put seven past them in two games last season, but the sorry outfit with only one victory in their past 43 away league derbies. “I can complain about the goals – the first was deflected, the second we mistimed tackles – but in the first half especially we never earned the right to use our quality,” Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, said. “They were first to the ball all the time.”
The match began at a cracking pace as might be expected of a game between teams separated by barely a page of the A-Z. QPR went straight onto the attack, and should have gone ahead after six minutes when Jamie Mackie fastened onto a dreadful, blind backpass from John Arne Riise only to shoot wide.
Mark Schwarzer was by far the busier goalkeeper, dealing with shots from Djibril Cisse and Taarabt, and although the energy levels dropped as half-time approached, QPR got their second wind at the interval and their reward after 52 minutes.
Alejandro Faurlin’s forward pass found Taarabt charging upfield yet again, and although his shot seemed destined to trouble only the spectators to the left of Mark Schwarzer’s goal, it clipped the heel of Hangeland and trundled into the net with Schwarzer committed in the other direction. It was Rangers’ first goal against Fulham in seven matches going back to 1999, and the second came after 68 minutes when Taarabt collected the ball in the centre circle, tricked his way past a clutch of Fulham players and, with the back four probably expecting a pass to a free man on the left, threaded the ball past defenders and goalkeeper into the corner of the net with the outside of his right foot.
Fulham had shown so little up to that point that it was tempting to consider that the points were already QPR’s, but substitute Mladen Petric caused late heart murmurs when his shot looped past Robert Green off Faurlin’s leg, and the game ended with the ball being frantically hacked out of the home penalty area as the nerves jangled in the stands.
“It would have been a travesty if we had conceded another,” Redknapp said. “Psychologically, when you’ve not won, the players must have been thinking ‘Oh my God’ when they got their goal. It was difficult for me watching but we hung in there and got what we deserved.”
QPR (4-2-3-1): Green; Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Traore; Mbia, Faurlin; Mackie, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips (Fabio, 86); Cisse (Ferdinand, 90).
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Riether (Kelly, h-t), Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Sidwell, Baird, Richardson (Petric, 63); Berbatov; Rodallega (Dejagah, 72).
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Taarabt (QPR)
Match rating: 6/10
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