Premier League Match Report: Albion pour misery on rock-bottom Rangers
West Bromwich Albion 3 Queens Park Rangers 2: Mark Hughes on the brink after defeat at the hands of Steve Clarke's rejuvenated Baggies
Last time West Bromwich Albion started a top-flight season by winning their first four home League games, it was 1919 and they ended as champions. It won't happen this time, but fourth spot in the table ensures The Hawthorns remains a happy place. A darn sight happier that is, than Shepherd's Bush.
Two early goals and a gem of a third made life ever more uncomfortable for Mark Hughes, whose Queens Park Rangers side were flattered by a stoppage-time rally in which they scored once and squandered a clear chance.
With Harry Redknapp on the market, Rangers' desperate run means the manager's position is an on-going talking point and the social networks were alive with debate last night.
Hughes avoided giving direct answers to questions about his future in his post-match media conference, arguing that the glut of summer signings and subsequent injuries always made a slow start possible. But, pressed as to whether he was still the right man for the job, he said: "Yes, absolutely."
Rangers were second best for substantial spells and traditionally fare poorly against Albion, who now boast the talent to hurt any opponents who allow them such room.
"Defensively, it wasn't a performance you would associate with us but there was some fantastic football going forward and we created good chances," said Albion's manager Steve Clarke. "Rangers' second goal just made it a bit nervous."
Having previously scored only one goal in the first half of a League game this season, Albion came by two here in the opening quarter thanks to the sort of smooth football for which they are becoming renowned.
Both followed right-wing crosses, the first delivered brilliantly by Shane Long after a dash past Clint Hill. James Morrison's advance into the area and expertly-placed header did the rest.
After roles had been reversed when a stretching Long couldn't direct the Scot's centre on target, the lead was doubled amid more dubious defending. Morrison was the supplier again and Anton Ferdinand's attempt to clear turned into a set-up from which Zoltan Gera rifled home hard and low.
The goal underlined the acres conceded to Albion deep in Rangers territory – a point further emphasised when Gera stole in behind Jose Bosingwa and Ji Sung Park on to Peter Odemwingie's excellent diagonal ball. Only Cesar's fingertips kept Albion's lead manageable.
Hughes had made two more changes to his porous defence with the return of Bosingwa and Ferdinand after injury. Hill was then withdrawn at half-time, but Rangers' afternoon was depressingly similar to many others in a win-less away sequence stretching back to last November.
They did at least gain a foothold courtesy of Adel Taarabt's latest spectacular finish. The Moroccan, who doesn't do ordinary goals, used the very top of his chest to bring down Esteban Granero's floated through ball before crashing a first-time right-volley inside Ben Foster's near post.
Rangers were immediately transformed. Unfortunately for them, the sum total of their further threat on goal during the 90 minutes was when Taarabt forced Foster to save low just after the interval and when the impressive Granero miscued high and wide.
The move that brought Albion's killer goal five minutes from time was pure precision, starting on one wing and switching to the other with devastating effect. Morrison's one-two with Gonzalo Jara Reyes was the key component, the substitute's pull-back being sidefooted home by Youssouf Mulumbu.
At the end of a week in which acting captain Jonas Olsson signed a new contract, Albion's defence wobbled in the dying moments. First, Claudio Yacob was turned when Granero curled in a beauty from 20 yards, then Ferdinand scooped over from close in following the Spaniard's corner. But justice was served by the outcome.
West Bromwich (formation 4-2-3-1): Foster; Tamas (Jara, h-t), McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Mulumbu, Yacob; Odemwingie (Rosenberg, 64), Morrison, Gera; Long (Lukaku, 64).
QPR (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill (Traoré, h-t); Granero, Mbia (Hoilett, 70); Wright-Phillips (Mackie, 59), Park, Taarabt; Zamora.
Referee: Michael Jones.
Man of the match: Morrison (West Bromwich)
Match rating: 7/10
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