QUEENS Park Rangers fell to their first defeat in seven games to Paulo Sousa’s Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
Goals from Mark Gower and Lee Trundle secured the win for the hosts, with QPR reduced to nine men by an over-zealous official in Mr Hill.
Wayne Routledge’s missed opportunity proved to be the turning point as Dorus de Vries saved from close range before Rowlands’ poorly timed challenge secured his second caution.
Not long after and Ben Watson can feel aggrieved for receiving his second yellow for what the referee deemed deliberate handball.
A slow-paced game with little enterprise or enthusiasm truly died with the hosts’ first strike as Sousa can celebrate a win over his former employers.
Jim Magilton once again named an unchanged side from the team that has performed admirably in recent fixtures. Radek Cerny lined-up behind a back four of Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Gary Borrowdale.
Into midfield and Wayne Routledge and Akos Buzsaky flanked the combative duo of Ben Watson and Martin Rowlands, with Rowan Vine playing just off Jay Simpson in the attacking line.
The hosts made a few key changes to the side with Dorus de Vries lining up behind Angel Rangel and Alan Tate at full back – Ashley Williams dropping from midfield to accompany skipper Garry Monk in the middle.
Leon Britton returned to the side to sit in a holding role, with Mark Gower and Darren Pratley sitting infront of him. Nathan Dyer and Tom Butler lined up on the flank with Stephen Dobbie returning from injury to start in a lone strikers’ role.
Kick Off: Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers
Sousa met some of his former players prior to kick off with the likes of Patrick Agyemang and Matteo Alberti, the unused substitutes, keen to speak to the current Swansea boss.
He would have been as nervous as the Rangers fans as the game kicked off at the Liberty Stadium with neither side truly taking an upper hand in the early offing. Swansea’s midfield was packed with talent that stifled the early creativity.
In particular former Fulham man Darren Pratley was imposing in the centre of the park alongside Mark Gower, while former winger Leon Britton foraging in behind the pair to pick up scraps.
Rangers had their first chance of the game when Simpson showed great strength to hold up the ball on the edge of the area, linking up with full back Mikele Leigertwood to see his shot deflected away by Williams.
A mediocre start was nearly sparked into life moments later when Watson’s resultant corner was cleared as far as Rowlands – the skipper fed Akos Buzsaky down the left, he in turn let fly right-footed with the ball inches over the right hand upright.
The hosts began to assert more pressure on proceedings with Nathan Dyer in particular a lively character down the right flank. His direct and purposeful running had Borrowdale beaten all ends up, but that final ball was lacking for Sousa’s side – sound familiar?
Rangers broke away on the counter-attack midway through the first period with a neat spell of possession football. Gorkss surged from the backline and passed into Simpson’s feet. The Arsenal loanee picked a perfect first time pass for winger Routledge.
The former Spurs and Aston Villa wide-man worked his way into the box before driving right-footed wide of the left-hand upright. He and the Rangers supporters knew that the early goal would be crucial if the R’s were to get the better of Sousa’s Swans.
Only Stephen Dobbie will know how he didn’t open the scoring minutes later as the hosts carved out their first genuine chance of the encounter. Good interplay from Dyer and Rangel saw the Spaniard in behind Borrowdale.
He rolled the ball across for summer-signing Dobbie, but under pressure from Damion Stewart the Scotsman flashed at the chance with the Jamaican international able to steer the ball away for a corner.
Indeed the Swans had found a foot-hold on proceedings with Dyer in particular the key tormentor for the hosts. The R’s had very little in reposte to his enterprising running and sheer pace with once again the final ball eluding them.
Rangers once again sparked into life after a period of inconsistency, with Buzsaky and Routledge showing cool heads to find lone striker Simpson. The loanee showed excellent feet to take a touch before firing disappointingly wide of the same upright.
Play was becoming stifled with Swansea content to condense play and carve out chances on the break. A couple of balls flashed across the target with the goal gaping for a poacher poised to finish – as it was Dobbie had little in support as the chances went amiss.
Cerny was forced into a couple of saves low-down while punching positively from a corner to deny Williams. Williams himself could have opened the scoring from a set-piece only to loop his header over the bar.
Swansea were in the ascendancy in the latter stages and the R’s needed to cling onto their clean sheet going into the break. The hosts appeared to resemble a jigsaw, falling to pieces in the box – as they attempted to break the deadlock.
Pratley’s positive run was met with a wayward shot, with little ideas and movement from an attacking line still searching for goals. In truth it was Swansea that edged the latter stages of the first period, but the lacklustre nature of the game had fans hoping for an improvement in the second half.
Half Time: Swansea City 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
There was a strange atmosphere across the stadium, comparable to that at Cardiff City’s stadium only a few weeks previous. The small group of followers in the away end did their best to create some noise but the home crowd remained relatively silent when their team required support.
Evidently coming from the dressing room with ringing in their ears, QPR were sent out onto the pitch early by manager Magilton. The first half performance hadn’t lived up to previous showings but there was still a second 45 minutes to rectify their first half shortcomings.
Ben Watson’s deep corner found defender Kaspars Gorkss lurking around the far post, but the Latvian who is yet to score for Rangers in competitive action planted his header over De Vries’ bar.
De Vries was called into action moments later when Rangers had their most clear cut opportunity of the fixture thus far. Watson fired in another testing set-piece for Simpson and the net seemed destined to ripple, but the stopper pulled off an outstanding point-blank save to deny the Arsenal loanee.
Rangers were beginning to capture the calibre of display they had put forward in recent games with Rowan Vine ghosting past Rangel down the left. He cut inside to roll the ball square to Routledge.
The winger stepped inside his marker and with the goal at his mercy fired straight at the keeper De Vries, who in truth pulled off an unbelievable save to deny the winger. It proved to be the turning point as moments later the game dramatically swung the Swans’ way.
The ball was hacked away from the target following Routledge’s opportunity, and Martin Rowlands showed a disappointing lack of thought by taking out Nathan Dyer directly in front of an over-zealous official while on a yellow card. There was only one end result as the skipper was sent to the dressing room.
If ever a decision took the stuffing out of a side, it was this, as Swansea started to assert some positive play and attacking football for the first time in the second period. Vine went to sit on the left-flank but was ordered by Magilton to hold his strikers role and continue with three in the middle.
Midfielder Pratley emerged as a goalscoring candidate moments later, only to be thwarted by Radek Cerny – the Czech stopper impressing in recent matches would have to be at the peak of his powers to deny Swansea today.
Alejandro Faurlín came from the bench to replace the hard-working Vine, with Routledge sitting in behind Simpson and the trio of Watson, Buzsaky and Faurlín holding the fort and looking to stem the growing tide of attacks from Swansea.
Moments later the R’s fell behind as the extra man told for the hosts. Despite seeing the R’s down to ten men for the majority of the half, Sousa’s players seemed content to keep hold of the ball and play patiently, but in one sweeping move the advantage was taken.
Rangel charged down the right after useful build up play and fired a right-footed cross into the heart of the area. Quite what Mikele Leigertwood was marking is open to debate as Mark Gower latched onto the pin-point cross to roll the ball home with great composure from close range.
GOAL: Swansea City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
It was no less than the Swans deserved for their dominance since Rowlands’ dismissal, and the waves of pressure eventually told for the delighted hosts. The noise levels rose once again around the stadium as the belief crept back into the home support.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the R’s attempted to get forward and bag an equaliser with Leigertwood keen to make amends for his earlier error. The full-back cut inside left-footed, as he did against Nottingham Forest, but his strike didn’t match the aforementioned effort flying straight into the grasp of De Vries.
If Rangers’ chances were slim before, they had all-but disappeared when Mr Hill once again displayed a disappointing eagerness to dish out a second yellow for Ben Watson. His first was without question a yellow, but falling onto the ball and accidentally handling shouldn’t constitute a yellow card – let alone a second.
Swansea were buoyant as they sensed back to back home wins under new boss Sousa, who in credit to him had the confidence to change his previously negative approach with Lee Trundle now partnering Dobbie up front.
Rangers in turn brought on Alessandro Pellicori and Adel Taarabt for Buzsaky and Simpson in a bid to perform what would have been a miracle in face of such a great disadvantage.
A ball over the top nearly sprung the surprise of the game with Taarabt looking to latch onto the pass on the edge of the six-yard box. The ball on the up and two players in the middle Taarabt inexplicably flung his weaker foot at the ball and put it high into the stands.
Frustration from Faurlín and Routledge who waited with baited breath in the middle for a drawback but the pass was never forthcoming with the Tottenham Hotspur loanee opting to go it alone.
Swansea bagged a second goal to kill the game off when Nathan Dyer ghosted past Borrowdale down the right without so much breaking a sweat, before squaring for substitute Lee Trundle to roll home with consummate ease. The epitome of a counter-attacking goal as nine-man QPR came up short on numbers at the back.
GOAL: Swansea City 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
With that the final whistle was blown and Paulo Sousa achieved a hard-fought win over his former club. Rangers in truth were in the game until the cards were flourished and the Swans’ numerical advantage saw them to what in the end was a comfortable win.
Final Whistle: Swansea City 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Dorus De Vries, Ashley Williams, Alan Tate, Leon Britton, Darren Pratley (Jordi López 86), Nathan Dyer, Stephen Dobbie (Craig Beattie 72), Garry Monk, Angel Rangel, Mark Gower, Tom Butler (Lee Trundle 61).
Final Whistle: Swansea City 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Ben Watson (Sent Off 77), Martin Rowlands (Sent Off 53), Akos Buzsaky (Adel Taarabt 76), Rowan Vine (Alejandro Faurlín 61), Jay Simpson (Alessandro Pellicori 76).