QUEENS Park Rangers remain rock-bottom following another inconsistent display against West Bromwich Albion.
Rangers were once again swept away in a frankly farcical opening period when James Morrison nodded home unmarked before Zoltan Gera pounced on an Anton Ferdinand howler.
Three years later and QPR remain reliant on the magic of Adel Taarabt to prompt an upsurge, his stunning take and volley gave some hope to a beleaguered travelling support.
While Rangers dominated vast periods of the second half they created no opportunities of note and allowed Albion’s Youssouf Mulumbu to roll home unmarked.
There was a moment to savour as Esteban Granero curled home a fine chip to reduce the arrears, but the damage was done for Mark Hughes’ QPR.
Mark Hughes made three changes from the side that capitulated against West Ham United, with Anton Ferdinand, Jose Bosingwa and Adel Taarabt coming into the line-up at the expense of Nedum Onouha, Alejandro Faurlín and Djibril Cissé.
Julio Cesar started behind a defence of Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill with Stephane M’Bia, Esteban Granero and Ji Sung Park starting as the trio in the middle. Bobby Zamora was flanked by Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
West Bromwich Albion started with Ben Foster behind a defence of Gabriel Tamas, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson and Goran Popov. Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob and James Morrison started in the middle with Zoltan Gera and Peter Odemwingie playing off Shane Long.
KICK OFF: WEST BROMWICH ALBION v QPR
It was a change in tactics another change in personnel and travelling in hope of a change in fortune at The Hawthornes. In recent weeks Rangers have flattered to deceive, predominantly due to a decimated defence, but bolstered by the returns of Ferdinand and Bosingwa, Rangers could hope to give themselves a better chance.
Conditions were excellent as Rangers took to the field and were subject to an evidently rousing motivational speech from Julio Cesar prior to kick off. It quickly became evident however that Rangers were set up for disaster.
Albion had all the early possession and attacking play, and looked predominantly down the right flank with Clint Hill as the alarming weakness in the rearguard. His lack of pace was exposed by the sprightly Shane Long with the fleet-footed Irishman soaring beyond a static Hill and delivering expertly.
A ponderous defence watched as the ball soared over their heads and onto the unmarked JAMES MORRISON who delivered a classy header on the stretch beyond the unprotected Julio Cesar.
It was rather the epitome of all that is wrong with the QPR defence at present with the shortcomings laid bare within five minutes. Rather disappointingly, Morrison goaded the travelling support when unwarranted, rather taking the shine off a fine header.
Mark Hughes had set his side up with three central midfielders, but in truth they were being over-run by a more lively Baggies midfield. Park chased fruitlessly and Taarabt was struggling to make a genuine impact on a game that even in the early stages was drifting harmlessly away.
West Brom continued to press with purpose, with Shane Long bullying the back four before bringing others into play. The Irishman was next to spurn an excellent opportunity as the Baggies threatened to extend their advantage.
Odemwingie and Morrison combined well before the former Middlesbrough man crossed for Long who could only sky an effort beyond the onrushing Cesar. It was too close for comfort once more as the Rangers defence failed to heed the warnings.
Gera was thwarted by Cesar – Rangers’ one man rearguard – as the self-destructive nature seemed relentless. Eventually the second goal came for Albion as QPR simply could not find their feet in this one-sided encounter.
Hill once again beaten comfortably for pace down the left before delivering a low cross into the heart of the area. Somehow Anton Ferdinand fluffed his lines and handed the ball the the Baggies – ZOLTAN GERA gleefully pounced to slam beyond a forlorn Cesar.
The away end was a mixture of anger and inevitable disappointment. Albion blazing a trail through the Rangers rearguard, who continued to wilt under pressure. The hosts looked like scoring with every attempt that passed.
Rangers had clearly not learned the lesson from the home debacle against West Ham United and in fact looked more nervy and disjointed than at any stage this season. To what extent have the improvements made a difference – answers on a post card.
Somehow, out of nothing, Rangers had their way back into the game. An expertly chipped ball from Granero found ADEL TAARABT who took the ball down on his chest and lashed beyond Foster with great venom. A bolt from the blue – welcomed, but hardly justified.
The marvellous attacking talent of Taarabt nearly went to waste effective immediate, as Albion cut a scything gap in the Rangers defence and only the fine talent of Cesar denied Gera his brace. Fine vision from Morrison found the Hungarian who drew the save from the beleaguered Brazilian.
It was beyond mystifying how QPR could rock up at the Hawthornes with any manner of expectations considering how the first half had played out. Rangers extremely fortunate to have a foot hold after a cataclysmic self-destruction in defence.
HALF TIME: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2-1 QPR
One can only presume that Hughes made his voice heard at half time, once again the visitors found themselves at the mercy of their own mistakes and could count themselves very thankful to be in with a chance of a point.
Clint Hill was rightfully withdrawn at the expense of Armand Traoré, a correct change from Hughes. If the Senegalese international could only get a half under his belt, then getting him on at the earliest opportunity was the right thing to do.
West Bromwich Albion also made a change at full back, Tamas coming off with Gonzalo Jara Reyes coming on in his stead. It was nearly a disastrous start for the Chilean as Taarabt picked his pocket seconds into the half.
He went alone and blasted at Foster – possibly better options available to the Moroccan, but one can not begrudge the lively wide-man an opportunity. Shaun Wright-Phillips burnt another bridge with the QPR support when he spurned an opportunity senselessly.
He ran onto an excellently weighted pass from Taarabt to take on a shot from a ridiculous angle, off balance and beyond even the near-post side netting. It was the height of selfishness with holding the ball and looking for support certainly the better option.
The diminutive wide-man gave an interview recently talking about his desire for goals and his remit was to keep trying – this line of thinking needs to be tailored to the situation and his shot was senseless and hardly supportive of a team ethic.
To his credit he chased and attempted to help the defensive effort, but that shot alone had supporters crying for Junior Hoilett – a player that impresses when called upon, but is seemingly kept at an arm’s length by Mark Hughes.
There was a change, it was Wright-Phillips, but Jamie Mackie was the man on in his stead. The Baggies’ resilience was commendable as Rangers forced the issue without providing that cutting thrust required to level the fixture.
The vast majority of possession lay with the visiting side with the natives becoming rather restless and exasperated with their team’s lack of concentration and drive to finish the fixture. Cross after cross from Bosingwa was cleared away with effortless ease but Rangers now pressed.
Granero fired over when a Bosingwa cross was half cleared before Steve Clarke reacted by throwing on Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku – the latter taking time to get into the fixture, carrying a big reputation into the encounter.
For all their possession, no chances were carved out in a half that proved more frustrating by the minute. Most of the ball was being played in the Baggies half, but it was Albion who neArly extended their lead with the best effort of the half.
Morrison took up the challenge from distance after being allowed to roam free outside the area. His rasping, dipping drive flew inches wide of the left-hand upright with Cesar beaten all ends up by a strike of genuine quality.
Rangers committed men forward in search of the equaliser and rather inevitably they were picked off on the break. Reyes broke forward with great purpose down the right before feeding the man who started the move, YOUSSOUF MULUMBU, who caressed home with aplomb.
Rangers had a much improved second period but a 3-1 scoreline was scant consolation for their improvement. They continued to press however and were rewarded with a second goal late on, a shot from distance – something they shirked from doing previously.
In a meagre four minutes of stoppage time – in light of some second pinching tactics from the hosts – Rangers struck. ESTEBAN GRANERO capitalised on a poor clearance to belie the occasion with a classy curling finish – a nice milestone of a first goal for the Spaniard among the disappointment.
Nearly the most unlikeliest of climaxes when Granero’s corner fell for Bosingwa on the far post – the Portuguese full back could only fire an effort high, wide and handsome to bring down the curtain in a thoroughly disappointing day.
FULL TIME: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3-2 QPR