Date: 7th May 2011 at 9:40pm
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QUEENS Park Rangers were today crowned npower Championship champions despite a home defeat by Leeds United.

Heidar Helguson had set the hosts on their way after he converted a Kasper Schmeichel spill from close range, before Max Gradel levelled before the break.

A heavily deflected Ross McCormack effort secured the points for Leeds United, who became the only club to secure a double over the champions.

This was but a sub-plot however to the celebrations that ensued both before and after the final whistle, as the FA decided against a points deduction over the signing of Alejandro Faurlín.

Despite the BBC cameras overseeing a home defeat, their focus would have been firmly on the champions as Adel Taarabt held the trophy aloft and confirmed QPR as a Premier League club.

Joy unbridled as supporters invaded the field to celebrate with the players and Neil Warnock addressed the fans from the directors box – We’re Queens Park Rangers; We’re Premier League.

Neil Warnock opted to make a double change prior to the final fixture of the npower Championship with Adel Taarabt and Fitz Hall dropping out of the starting eleven.

Radek Cerny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorksss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill – with Alejandro Faurlín and skipper Shaun Derry in the middle of the park.

Tommy Smith, Ákos Buzsáky and Wayne Routledge started behind the lone front-man Heidar Helguson.

Leeds started with Kasper Schmeichel started behind a back-line of Paul Connolly, Richard Naylor, Andy O’Brien and Eric Lichaj.

Max Gradel, Neil Kilkenny, Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson started across the midfield while Billy Paynter partnered Ross McCormack in attack.

Loftus Road was jubilant prior to kick off as the South Africa Road erupted outside the ground with just under an hour remaining until kick off. Phones were being feverishly checked, calls were being made just to substantiate the rumours flying around.

It was confirmed shortly prior to kick off that Queens Park Rangers would not incur a points deduction and would indeed be a Premier League club next season. It made for a wonderful atmosphere in a sunny West London on the final fixture of an eventful campaign..

Leeds United gave a guard of honour to the champions as they took to the field. It was a mark of respect that was appreciated by the home crowd who cheered their side onto the pitch. A great weight had been lifted and the R’s were free to enjoy themselves.

Within seconds, Rangers displayed why they are champions – by taking an early lead. Useful work from Ákos Buzsáky down the left saw him work an angle for Tommy Smith. The wide-man’s stinging drive was spilled by Kasper Schmeichel.

Heidar Helguson pounced on the rebound to roll home from close range, and send the home crowd into delirium. This all but ended Leeds’ slim playoff hopes while clearly displaying a renewed confidence in the squad.

Leeds had pace on either flank with Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson displaying some purposeful running at what is a tiring back four. Gradel in particular, who netted twice against Rangers at Elland Road, was proving lively in the early offing.

Rangers however were far from resting on their laurels with the headline midfielder Alejandro Faurlín creating some space before once again stinging the palms of the over-worked Schmeichel. Rangers came closer still just minutes later.

Wayne Routledge displayed that live-wire pace and neat ball control to burst through the midfield quadrant before unleashing a scintillating right footed shot. Once again Schmeichel spilled but on this occasion Helguson’s first touch was less than sufficient as he gifted the ball back to the Dane.

A moment of controversy then ensued as Billy Paynter – a relatively anonymous figure throughout the first period – latched onto a loose touch from Connolly and the former Arsenal man challenged for the ball and saw the sizeable front-man upended.

Fifa listed official Mr Clattenburg took a look at the incident, opting to give neither a foul nor a dive and instead waving for play to continue. If the official had given a foul he would have had no other option than to send off the young central defender.

The two sides continued to trade blows with Rangers carving out the majority of opportunities. Glancing headers for Helguson and Smith failed to truly test the under-fire ‘keeper but nevertheless displayed their attacking prowess.

On 38 minutes Leeds levelled out of the blue and it was the nippy wide-man Max Gradel that capitalised on defensive uncertainty. A straight-forward ball over the top was not defended correctly and Radek Cerny was slow from his line to recover the situation.

The ‘keeper flapped an arm at the loose ball only for the Ivorian to dink the ball away from the Czech stopper and into the back of an unguarded net. A harsh outcome considering the state of the game, but nevertheless Leeds United were level.

United then laid siege to the Rangers goal in the closing stages of the first period and a Bradley Johnson blocked free-kick narrowly missed a Leeds shirt on the follow up while McCormack nodded into the side netting.

The two sides went into the break level-pegging with the visitors asserting more impetus in the latter stages. Rangers had created the better chances throughout and were hoping to sign off in style in the second period.

The second half started with a similar pattern to the first, Rangers had a good deal of the ball but struggled to penetrate a stubborn Leeds rearguard. Experienced defender Andy O’Brien alongside Richard Naylor, helped forge a useful defensive partnership.

Rangers had the first opportunity of note in the half when Buzsáky once again surged through the midfield duo of Howson and Kilkenny before firing a rasping drive into the midriff of the grateful Schmeichel.

Buzsáky was making a welcome return to action after bit part roles from the bench hadn’t truly reflected the talent that the Hungarian possesses. He did have Routledge to his right but opting to shoot reflecting no lack of confidence in the attacking playmaker.

Schmeichel was on hand once more to tip an effort over the bar, showing excellent athleticism to deny a fleeting opportunity. Despite this Mr Clattenburg and his official conspired to give a bizarre goal kick.

Adel Taarabt was introduced to a raucous reception from the home crowd taking the place of Buzsáky. It was a popular move for the home crowd and the broad grin on the Moroccan’s face was more than evident as he took the field.

One of his first actions was a corner fired in that Schmeichel once again failed to field effectively. Smith nodded goal-bound only for the young Dane to recover effectively and tip the effort around the target.

Leeds were able to soak up consistent pressure and secure a goal to take the advantage for the first time in the encounter. The reliable Rangers defence was sadly a tad ponderous in allowing Ross McCormack to advance into the danger area.

The former Cardiff City front-man made it two in successive games when his shot took a fortuitous deflection off Gorkss and nestled into the bottom left hand corner – past the rooted Cerny who could do little but watch the ball drift into the net.

Peter Ramage had been introduced at the expense of Clint Hill with Matt Connolly slotting in at left-back. The latter was evidently struggling in this new berth and looked a tad uncomfortable against the pace of live-wire wide-man Max Gradel.

Former QPR trialist Davide Somma took to the field and immediately had an opportunity to extend the lead. He broke away from Connolly down the right flank before lashing the ball handsomely wide of the right hand upright.

Barely moments later at the striker tried his luck once more, striking a speculative effort that screwed away to Cerny’s right and away to safety. It was becoming quickly apparent that Leeds had the bit between their teeth and the R’s were lacking the motivation to haul themselves back.

Dan Shittu was introduced with just over 15 minutes remaining, and Warnock sent him up front in place of Helguson much to the amusement of the crowd. It certainly livened proceedings up as the defender-turned-striker showed excellent strength.

He even raised a few eyebrows when putting a volley on target, raising a further smile from Taarabt who appreciated as many around him the audacity of his attempt. Shittu was certainly in the mood to notch a goal in the final game of his contract.

Derry and Smith had respective chances to level proceedings only to be denied by Schmeichel – with Leeds looking more threatening on the counter-atttack. Patrick Kisnorbo came off the bench to a rapturous reception from the away crowd for his first appearance since March 2010.

It was Leeds that could celebrate the win, but it was Rangers that would be the happier of the two sets of support after the final whistle. A pitch invasion was followed by an emotional trophy lifting as Neil Warnock had led his charges to the Premier League.

Radek CERNY, Bradley ORR, Clint HILL (Peter RAMAGE 66), Shaun DERRY, Heidar HELGUSON (Dan SHITTU 72), Ákos BUZSÁKY (Adel TAARABT 55), Alejandro FAURLÍN, Kaspars GORKSS, Wayne ROUTLEDGE, Matt CONNOLLY, Tommy SMITH.



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