QUEENS Park Rangers were humbled at home by a Middlesbrough side that certainly belied their league position on a rain-soaked afternoon in W12.
The visitors and particularly Leroy Lita hit sparkling form to pick up their first ever win at Loftus Road, as Rangers fell by their attacking sword.
Dave Kitson opened the scoring as he flicked home a well taken set-piece, before Lita doubled the advantage from the penalty spot after a Ben Watson handball.
Rangers rallied and a double change inspired Rowan Vine to link up with fellow substitute Patrick Agyemang, with the latter halving the deficit at Loftus Road.
Any hopes of a revival were blown away as Lita hit his second, before his effort cannoned off the post for skipper Gary O’Neil to make it four.
The rout was complete after summer signing Mark Yeates produced an effort of outstanding class, rolling home from the edge of the area to complete the rout.
The scoreline may have flattered the visitors a tad in what was by an large a keenly-contested affair, but Boro’s hunger to hit the target saw them run out clear winners on the day.
Jim Magilton made another alteration to his defence, this time however it was enforced as a pelvic injury for Matthew Connolly paved the way for Latvian fans’ favourite Kaspars Gorkss to return.
Rangers lined up with Radek Cerny between the sticks, behind a back four of Mikele Leigertwood, Gorkss, Fitz Hall and Gary Borrowdale.
The central midfield pairing of Alejandro Faurlín and Ben Watson retained their place with Steven Reid sidelined with a hamstring complaint.
Adel Taarabt, Ákos Buzsáky and Wayne Routledge played behind in-form Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson who bagged his eighth of the season against Coventry City last weekend.
Middlesbrough started with Brad Jones in goal behind a back four of the returning Rhys Williams, David Wheater, Sean St Ledger and the combative Austrian Emmanuel Pogatez.
Into midfield and Julio Arca lined up wide right, with loanee Isiah Osbourne and skipper Gary O’Neil in the middle of the park. One time prospective loanee Mark Yeates started on the left-wing.
Summer signing Leroy Lita started up front alongside Stoke City loanee Dave Kitson as the latter looked to continue his positive run.
Leigertwood – Hall – Gork?s – Borrowdale
Watson – Faurlín
Buzsáky – Routledge – Taarabt
Williams – Wheater – St Ledger – Pogatez
Arca – Osbourne – O’Neil (c) – Yeates
Lita – Kitson
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Middlesbrough
There was a late change, not for either side, but to the official. Phil Gibbs replaced Keith Hill as the man in the middle – a man who had taken charge of the R’s once in the defeat away at Bristol City earlier this season.
The heavens opened as the game kicked off at Loftus Road with many in the Paddocks left with nowhere to hide as the sold out sections were laid bare to the elements.
Rangers were looking for their first home win in four games after draws against Crystal Palace and Coventry City included a run which saw the R’s defeated by Leicester live on Sky.
Magilton’s men certainly had the bit between their teeth in the early offing as they controlled the game and passed the ball with great accuracy and intensity.
Adel Taarabt was looking sprightly on the left-flank as he worked the returning Australian international Rhys Williams. In truth however Williams was on top in the early stages of that particular duel.
Rangers pushed forward relentlessly in search for the opener, and neat interplay from Routledge and Taarabt, only for the latter to fire wide of the target.
The Moroccan was at it again moments later when another effort from the left was narrowly deflected wide as the R’s asserted the early advantage.
A testing corner from Ben Watson found Mikele Leigertwood unmarked in the area but the full-back could only nod waywardly wide of the left-hand upright. A real chance for Rangers went begging for Rangers as the inquests began at the heart of the visiting defence.
If the team was in full flow, it certainly wasn’t reflected by a slumbering Loftus Road crowd – while their side were performing admirably against one of the division’s pre-season favourites there was little noise to be heard around the ground.
A sense of unease and nervousness had evidently crept into some supporters with sharp intakes of breath every time Rangers played the ball out from the back – which by and large they did successfully. The demons of Leicester were still embedded in the memory of some supporters however.
As Middlesbrough started to assert their attacking impetus on the game, the tension was palpable in sections of the ground with Leroy Lita a constant thorn in the side of the Rangers defence – he received heckles and jeers for his troubles.
He was persistent however and the R’s were shot an early warning as Lita foraged in behind from the right before firing a testing left-footed effort straight at Radek Cerny. Not the calibre of finish he would have desired, but nevertheless an opportunity and a player not to be ignored.
In a compelling fixture Rangers were back up the other end and some neat passing play saw Taarabt finish off a move with a ball inside to Jay Simpson. The Arsenal loanee spun and released a snap-shot, but his right footed effort sloped wide to Brad Jones’ left.
If Lita’s warning sign wasn’t enough early on Mark Yeates sent gasps around the stadium with an outstanding solo effort. The player who was due to sign for Rangers on loan under Ian Holloway before picking up a late injury unleashed a venomous drive from 35-yards towards goal.
The effort dipped and swerved leaving Cerny completely bamboozled before cannoning back off the cross-bar to his and the Boro travelling army’s dismay. Rangers however could thank lady luck for what was tentative defending.
Boro were now beginning to come into their own as Gordon Strachan’s men sensed their way into the game. Confidence was evidently growing as loanee Dave Kitson fed Lita once more but Cerny dealt with the effort before genuine damage could be done.
The tide of chances eventually told however as a sloppy free-kick given away on the edge of the area was once again the downfall of Rangers.
Set-piece specialist Gary O’Neil curled in a powerful effort which looked to be on its way into the back of the net before a flick from Dave Kitson made sure of the opener as he side-footed home from close range.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Middlesbrough
Rangers were now being over-run as the visitors sensed another goal was there for the taking. Despite continuing in their efforts to play attractive football they were getting picked off by a hard-working midfield and Williams keeping Taarabt firmly in his pocket.
Defensive lapses were costing Rangers dear and they nearly paid the price moments after as the architect O’Neil was left unmarked once more and freely allowed to pick his spot.
Emmanuel Pogatez, who had defended admirably at left full-back, strode forward before feeding O’Neil in acres of space on the edge of the area.
He sized up his options before firing towards the top right hand corner – Cerny pulled out an excellent save to deny the former Portsmouth man, who looked every inch a Premier League player.
The referee called for half time at the right time for QPR, as for all their early dominance a large spell on the back foot had given supporters and players a much-needed reality check. Rangers went into the break rather justifiably a goal down.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Middlesbrough
Rangers took to the field for the second half, with as always renewed optimism after the break. For all of Middlesbrough’s prowess in attack here was a side that had an arguably weak defence that would need to be attacked.
The second half kicked off and once again it was QPR that pulled out all the stops in a bid to bag a crucial equalising goal. A succession of corners and pressure didn’t pay dividends as the half turned on a slip.
Leigertwood conceded possession while Rangers were on top as Boro forced a corner and a wave of pressure of own. A mark of how finely balanced the fixture was soon displayed as Boro went on to score an important goal.
A shot at point-blank range in the area was blocked by the arm of Ben Watson and the referee Mr Gibbs had little hesitation in pointing to the spot and handing Boro the chance to double their advantage.
Leroy Lita faced off against Radek Cerny, the Czech stopper who had saved against Boro’s rivals Newcastle earlier in the campaign. The forward fired powerfully down the middle to double the visitors’ lead arguably against the run of play.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Middlesbrough
Lita obviously didn’t enjoy the treatment he had been given by the Loftus Road crowd, contributed to by his Swan Lake routine whenever in sight of the area. He then ran along the Paddocks goading the crowd only for the referee to cut him short and give him a booking.
A player who had proven to be a real talent throughout the fixture so far really lacked the class and quality of another player who received similar treatment a couple of season’s ago, Andy Cole.
Magilton’s team selection in recent weeks has suggested a rather knee-jerk mentality to set-backs and he certainly proved this theory as he immediately made a double change, replacing the ineffectual Ákos Buzsáky and Jay Simpson with Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine.
He decision was quickly vindicated as the two combined to halve the deficit for Rangers. Vine burst away from the left flank with a quick turn of pace before rolling across the box for Patrick Agyemang and the forward stroked home to send the crowd into raptures.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Middlesbrough
Voices grew in the crowd, confidence resumed and Rangers started to get the ball down and play their football once more. They played in similar fashion before a couple of goals took the wind from their sails.
Magilton’s attacking mentality combined with the crowd’s renewed optimism made the going tough for the visiting side. In fairness to the Reds they remained dogged and the form of Osbourne in the middle was highly impressive as he broke down the Rangers’ attacks.
The Aston Villa man was strong in the tackle and used the ball effectively when in possession, combining well with O’Neil and supplying wingers Yeates and Arca – the latter in particular was roaming across the field and creating space.
Once again while QPR were on top they had the stuffing knocked out of them by Mr Lita, who displayed his vast quality and dispelled the unnecessary side of the game with an outstanding solo effort.
As Rangers pushed forward to the equaliser Boro were able to exploit the gaps, and the pace of Lita carried him away from the defence.
Fitz Hall was left without cover and was forced to stand up and back off – and Leroy Lita took advantage of this to cut inside a static Hall and drill a well-executed effort into the bottom right hand corner via a slight deflection.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Middlesbrough
The third goal appeared to seal the game, as the crowd went flat – even if Rangers attack-minded play continued. Watson was pure marmite in the middle of the park as he would waste and win the ball in equal measure, but he faced a side that was proving deadly in capitalising on errors.
He had Rangers’ latest chance to chip away at the Boro lead as the ball was neatly flicked over the top. The ball fell kindly between the loanee and Vine only for the midfielder to fire left-footed over the bar under close attention from St Ledger.
An opportunity unravelled from nowhere moments later after Kaspars Gorkss picked the ball up on the halfway line. The Latvian defender fired a hopeful long cross that saw Brad Jones come out into no-man’s land and leave the goal gaping for Routledge.
The winger was under pressure as he attempted the pluck the ball out of the air, and his right-footed effort from an acute angle drifted wide of the far post. A genuine chance – one of many for Rangers throughout the game – went amiss.
Middlesbrough were showing that deadly streak that has eluded Rangers in recent weeks and in particular Lita was proving himself to be formidable opposition. His direct running and pace was scything Rangers open on numerous occasions as Magilton refused to relent his attacking credentials.
Supporters were sensing that Rangers’ realistic opportunity of getting something from the fixture had departed, but this was lost on Magilton and the bench whose attacking instincts and endeavours ultimately saw Boro shatter the R’s goal difference.
Lita coasted down the right flank in behind the vacated left-back spot before his powerful effort cannoned back off Cerny’s near post, luckily for him and Boro Gary O’Neil was on hand to place the ball into an unguarded net from the edge of the area.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-4 Middlesbrough
O’Neil had indeed proven his abilities to run this fixture from the middle of the park, as the reinstated skipper put in a performance of the highest calibre alongside the youngster Osbourne.
Again Rangers drove forward in search of meaningless consolation goals and were continually caught out on the break with the defence left highly over-exposed at times against a confident and competent attacking line.
The R’s were being over-run on the counter-attack despite having some pressure and corners to their name in the second half as Yeates continued a positive goalscoring run against Rangers to well and truly hammer the nail in the coffin.
Mark Yeates burst down the left before turning his eyes towards goal. He cut outside then inside Kaspars Gorkss before firing an effort of real quality into the bottom right hand corner and sending the away supporters into raptures.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-5 Middlesbrough
The R’s were taught an attacking lesson by a Boro side in deadly form at Loftus Road. Rhys Williams spoke about the need to put right their perofrmance against Peterborough and how records count for nothing – he had it correct on this occasion.
His defensive prowess as well as his side’s attacking potential saw them run out clear winners at Loftus Road, despite his side perhaps not being ‘five goals better’ than the hosts.
Rangers mentality to attack regards of situation and inability to adapt at three or four down saw them self-inflict damage on their goal difference.
In a league where points and positions remain close shipping five goals at home in a relatively tight encounter was certainly not a wise idea – where the defence were laid bare to the relentless attacks of the visiting side.
QPR must now put things right against Watford on Monday night while Gordon Strachan’s side eased their way to his first three points in charge of the Reds as they now look onwards and upwards towards the automatic promotion places.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-5 Middlesbrough
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Fitz Hall, Mikele Leigertwood,Wayne Routledge (Alessandro Pellicori 82), Ákos Buzsáky (Rowan Vine 52), Kaspars Gorkss, Ben Watson, Alejandro Faurlín, Jay Simpson (Patrick Agyemang 52), Gary Borrowdale, Adel Taarabt.
Brad Jones, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Mark Yeates, Leroy Lita, Sean St Ledger, Gary O’Neil (Didier Digard 79), Julio Arca, Rhys Williams, David Wheater, Dave Kitson, Isiah Osbourne.