A WELL-taken double by Rangers hit-man Jamie Mackie helped the visitors snatch all three points in a cagey affair at Leicester City.
The league leaders were tested throughout the encounter by a well-drilled Paulo Sousa side, but the Foxes lacked the cutting edge that Rangers have discovered in the lively Mackie.
His first was a beautifully guided header that fairly looped over the head of former QPR loanee Carl Ikeme, but things were hardly going all the leaders’ way.
Leicester gained a foot-hold on the encounter and proved Rangers toughest test thus far, but as fans of QPR and Swansea City will note the lack of guile and cutting edge in front of target.
In the cruellest of blows for the dominant hosts, QPR displayed the mark of champions. Mackie ghosted through a previously resolute defence and his sublime finish from close killed the encounter as a contest.
Leicester fans will rightfully feel aggrieved that their side were unable to claim something from the fixture, but the killer instinct in high-flying QPR sees them goes five points clear at the summit.
Neil Warnock made one enforced change to the side that defeated Ipswich Town during the week, with injury victim Alejandro Faurlín making way for the returning Ákos Buzsáky.
Paddy Kenny lined up behind a back four of Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill – with Shaun Derry partnering Buzsáky in the centre of the park.
The trio of Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim played behind lone front-man Heidar Helguson in a 4-2-3-1 formation – Martin Rowlands was able to take his place on the bench.
Leicester made one change from the side that impressively beat R’s promotion rivals Cardiff City in midweek, with Matty Fryatt returning to the fold.
Carl Ikeme lined up behind Robbie Neilson, Jack Hobbs, Michael Morrison and Bruno Berner – while Matt Oakley, Richie Wellens and Andy King the midfield trio.
Martyn Waghorn and Lloyd Dyer supported the returning forward Fryatt as City looked to continue their form from a confidence-boosting win.
Neilson – Hobbs – Morrison – Berner
Oakley – Wellens – King
Waghorn – Fryatt – Dyer
Walker – Connolly – Gorkss – Hill
Buzsáky – Derry
Mackie – Taarabt (c) – Ephraim
Kick Off: Leicester City v Queens Park Rangers
Queens Park Rangers took to the field this season in the knowledge that for the first time this season, they would be top come the end of the clash. One thing is for certain, whatever performance couldn’t be worse than the kind of display they turned in last season.
Rangers are now a very different animal however, as has been highlighted by their early season form and renewed vigour under Neil Warnock. Leicester buoyed by their victory midweek would provide a stern test of the visitors’ promotion credentials.
In an opening five minutes that proved cagey, both sides traded blows and searched for that elusive early goal that would hand them the impetus. Not until approaching ten minutes did the game truly spring into life.
Jamie Mackie’s flick-on for Adel Taarabt nearly proved fruitful, only for the Moroccan to force former QPR loanee Carl Ikeme into a routine stop in the early offing. At the other end of the field however Leicester were showing their flair and attacking prowess.
Lloyd Dyer – another ex-Rangers man – used his pace to his advantage to fend off Kyle Walker but his delivery consistently lacked the quality to truly give lone forward Matt Fryatt the opportunities he craved.
Indeed Martyn Waghorn’s role wide on the right didn’t seem to suit despite a good spell of possession for the hosts. His ability to cut inside and shoot was nullified by an unforgiving Clint Hill – a key ingredient that was missing from last season’s debacle.
Mackie had an opportunity of his own with little over ten minutes on the clock when Heidar Helguson sending in a teasing cross for Mackie from the left, only for the pint-size striker to nod wide under pressure from a strong back-line.
He was rewarded for his persistence however when Rangers carved out a goal from relatively nothing. Shaun Derry’s tenacity in the middle of the park saw him win the ball and flight it perfectly for Taarabt down the right.
Taarabt sent in a cross of genuine quality for Jamie Mackie to steal a yard on his marker and leap to guide his header over the despairing dive of Ikeme. It was another goal from a centre forward in top form as Ranger had a desired early lead.
GOAL: Leicester City 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Mackie’s seventh of the campaign was enshrined with the ruthlessness that has epitomised Rangers’ form at present. It didn’t seem to flatter the counter-attacking visitors either as they looked resurgent on the break.
They were found sleeping on occasions however with Wellens able to surge forward into the heart of the area. With players craving the delivery in the middle Wellens went for goal and it went high, wide and handsome.
His fellow Foxes in the centre were evidently displeased by his decision, but it was a firm warning sign to the Rangers defenders. Sousa’s Leicester were now piling on the pressure in the latter stages of the opening period.
The big quandary for the Leicester side was their lack of genuine attacking options in front of goal, they simply had no way through was has become a mean Rangers back-line, with only two goals conceded to date.
Waghorn’s endeavour and Andy King’s willingness to get forward wasn’t proving fruitful on this occasion as it did last time out, and the credit would go to Rangers for a useful rearguard action, marshalled by the war-horse Derry.
His partner in crime Clint Hill nearly doubled the advantage as a set-piece from Taarabt skimmed off the head of the former Palace defender and out for a goal kick. It brought the curtain down on a mixed first period in which Rangers had the advantage.
Half Time: Leicester City 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
In truth Leicester were dominating the majority of the ball at the end of the first period, and continued in the same manner as the second half kicked off. Indeed Fryatt was proving lively without threatening the target – slamming over the bar from distance in the early exchange.
Rangers were having to dig in and draw on the resolve of the hard-working summer additions. Mackie chased back to help the likes of Derry and the back four keep their slender advantage. It was gutsy, gritty stuff at times for the league leaders.
Such was their lack of forward penetration, Sousa opted to remove Dyer and Oakley in exchange for Paul Gallagher and Steve Howard – mainstays of their successful campaign last time out. Dyer was useful at times, switched flanks, got a kick from Hill, and swiftly moved back!
The second period certainly proved more tempestuous with the crowd beginning to play a larger part in proceedings. Putting pressure on the young official Mr Scott. A brief foray from the Foxes saw Howard lay down to Fryatt and the ex-Walsall man forced Paddy Kenny into a smart save to his right.
Rangers seemed unable to hold the ball effectively with Buzsáky in particular guilty of gifting possession to the hosts, couple this with Helguson leaving the field replaced by Agyemang, Rangers were lacking an out-ball and brought pressure on themselves.
Moments later however Rangers thought they’d had the clincher. Mackie rolled his marker in the heart of the area and acrobatically put the ball beyond Ikeme. Rather unfortunately a foul was given against him, and QPR could feel somewhat aggrieved.
Leicester were now baying for blood, as from their perspective Steve Howard was dealt a blow to his head – it certainly seemed that way as he left the field for treatment. Then villain of the piece Paddy Kenny was singled out for treatment.
After catching a long cross the ‘keeper landed awkwardly and required treatment. He was evidently barracked by the home fans who felt he was feigning injury. Again this didn’t appear to be the case as his kicking visibly suffered and the injury was strapped up.
It was all one way traffic by now as Leicester ploughed forward in the search for an equaliser, marshalled by their talisman Howard, who was giving Gorkss and Connolly a tough time in the heart of the area.
Just when you thought the game was going one way Rangers showed why they’re fronting the pack with a goal of true class. Substitute Mikele Leigertwood rolled the ball through for Jamie Mackie who in turn rolled his marker.
Mackie feigned to cut inside onto his right before darting left, shaping his body and showing great composure to caress the ball beyond Ikeme and into the bottom corner. Harsh on the hosts who had pressed a great deal, but also a lesson in ruthlessness by the league leaders.
GOAL: Leicester City 0-2 Queens Park Rangers
Not even seven minutes of injury time could dampen the away fans’ joy, in fact it was spent by and large in the Leicester half, as the hosts sensed that the game had gone and the visitors turned up pressure.
Mr Scott blew the final whistle with the Walkers already emptying fast as Rangers displayed their credentials as champions, but there can be no question that after a performance of this nature you won’t catch Neil Warnock using that word.
Rangers march on, and on this display an extra striker an a more ambitious style would see Leicester not too far away come the end of the campaign.
Final Whistle: Leicester City 0-2 Queens Park Rangers
Ikeme, Neilson, Morrison, Oakley (Howard 63), King, Dyer (Gallagher 58), Fryatt, Waghorn, Berner, Wellens, Hobbs.
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Hill, Derry, Taarabt (Leigertwood 78), Helguson (Agyemang 73), Buzsaky, Mackie (Smith 89), Gorkss, Walker, Connolly, Ephraim.