A BRACE from Mikele Leigertwood helped secure a comfortable win for the R`s and inflict 2 defeats in a row for promotion chasing Stoke City.
Rangers put the Potters to the sword with a superb brace from inspired central midfielder Leigertwood, and that was added to in the second period with a trademark Akos Buzsaky effort.
Stoke were reduced to ten men late on in the first half in somewhat controversial circumstances as Andy Griffin was adjudged to have made an ill advised lunge at Rangers star winger Hogan Ephraim.
The Potters will now have to go back to the drawing board as Rangers ran riot infront of the Sky cameras.
Gigi De Canio used the Barnsley game to rest a couple of players, and they were reintroduced into the starting line-up, winger Hogan Ephraim and striker Rowan Vine; Dexter Blackstock and Angelo Balanta made way.
De Canio was also able to name popular midfielder Gareth Ainsworth on the substitutes bench, the midfielder had not featured for the R`s since the F.A. Cup encounter against Chelsea, and was a welcome addition to the squad following a back complaint.
Stoke made one change following their defeat against Preston North End, long throw specialist Rory Delap was serving a suspension and henceforth would have to be replaced by ex-Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao.
Stoke City started the game in a positive manner, forcing two early corners to test the Rangers rearguard, with Liam Lawrence at the centre of the action. The Rangers defence dealt with the corners with aplomb, clearing their lines with relative ease.
Rangers then managed to force the first chance of the game, when Ryan Shawcross managed to deflect a Rowan Vine effort away from the target, the move owed much to the enterprise of Hogan Ephraim and Damien Delaney down the left who are looking a formidable partnership coming forward.
Lawrence was at it again down the Rangers end, with an excellent delivery causing a problem in the Rangers penalty area. The free-kick was headed onto the bar by one time Rangers trialist Mamady Sidibe, the ball bounced down under the bar, but was swept to safety by Matthew Connolly, with unsighted Rangers fans looking to the linesman in anxiety.
Literally seconds following the close scare for the R`s they constructed a counter-attacking move, which was finished off in truly magnificent style by midfielder Mikele Leigertwood in the 12th minute. An excellent move saw the ex-Sheffield United midfielder in a shooting position on the edge of the area, he waited for the ball to drop before unleashing a rasping left-footed drive into the bottom right corner giving Steve Simonsen no chance.
QPR 1-0 STOKE CITY
Barely 9 minutes later and Rangers were on the attack once again, and after a good spell of pressure they found their second goal, courtesy of that man again, Mikele Leigertwood.
Leigertwood started another counter attacking move, which led to Akos Buzsaky delivering a tantalising cross from the right flank, Rowan Vine went in for the header and was surely felled in the area, with barely enough time for Rangers fans and players alike to appeal to the referee, Leigertwood was on hand to lash home his second into the roof of the net from 12 yards out. Thus doubling the midfielder`s tally to the season.
QPR 2-0 STOKE CITY
Rangers buoyant by this second goal went in search for a third. They were nearly granted this when Martin Rowlands deft chip from the right flew narrowly wide of the left hand post.
Hogan Ephraim was causing all sorts of problems for the Potters rearguard, squirming away from two challenges down the left flank, and reappearing from a dead end to float an excellent cross to the far post where Patrick Agyemang was lurking, only Ryan Shawcross` last ditch header was enough to prevent Rangers from making it 3.
Mikele Leigertwood then again went close to his hatrick with an audacious header from the outside of the area. It was held comfortably by Simonsen, but Rangers were really beginning to turn the screw over their more lofty-placed opposition.
Then came a big talking point in the game, when Andy Griffin was given his marching orders 3 minutes from the end of the first period. With Hogan Ephraim and Griffin both challenging for the ball near the left hand touchline, the defender seemed to lunge at Ephraim, but clearly taking the ball, the challenge may have been a tad strong, which is to be expected from an intimidating Stoke line-up.
But when Mr D`Urso charged over the to the incident flashing a red card, it caught a lot of players and fans alike totally off guard, from an incident that didn`t seem to merit this form of punishment.
The incident sparked Stoke into life and Ricardo Fuller`s right footed effort rolled past Lee Camp, and seemed to take an age before clipping the Rangers stopper`s left hand post, with Delaney dealing with the clearance. A rare instance of attack by the Potters in a first half that belonged to the R`s.
Half Time: QPR 2-0 Stoke City
Stoke City changed to a 4-4-1 formation when Mamady Sidibe was brought off for full back Andy Wilkinson, Richard Cresswell was handed the captains armband as Stoke looked to consolidate their score and pick up scraps on the break.
Another neat passing move from the R`s ensued as they looked to continue the domination they had built over 11 men before the sending off. The lively Ephraim and Agyemang combined on the edge of the area before laying the ball to Rowan Vine, the striker`s effort was blocked and Rangers really had the impetus.
Sensing that his team couldn`t simply defend, Tony Pulis withdrew defensive midfielder Salif Diao in favour of a more attacking option in Paul Gallagher.
Rangers third goal was a textbook counter attack and started with a Stoke free-kick on the right hand side of the Rangers area. Liam Lawrence, who had faded dramatically since his early spell of positive play, drilled a right-footed free kick straight into the legs of the Rangers wall, and the R`s were away.
Rowan Vine carried the ball through the middle for Rangers, and laid the ball wide left for Hogan Ephraim, the tricky winger showed his wizardry down the left delivering and incisive pass for Patrick Agyemang. The striker took a heavy touch and unselfishly laid the ball on to Akos Buzsaky, The Midfield Magyar made no mistake, drilling a right footed effort past the despairing dive of Simonsen.
QPR 3-0 STOKE CITY
Lee Camp was in inspired form to keep out the Potters from any consolations. Glenn Whelan tested the keeper from range, when his right-footed curling effort was expertly saved by the Rangers stopper. Camp saved low and to his left when he couldn`t have seen much of the ball as it came through a crowd of players.
Rangers again were proving masters at breaking away on the counter attack, and nearly reaped more rewards when Rowan Vine had his late effort saved well by Simonsen, and with Agyemang bearing down on goal, the Stoke stopper was able to cling on at the second attempt.
Rangers introduced 3 substitutes over the course of the second period, with Blackstock, Stewart and the returning Gareth Ainsworth entering the fray, with the latter being handed the captain`s armband.
Blackstock nearly scored with one of his first touches as the ball broke to his left foot in the box, but his effort was once again thwarted by the inspired Simonsen, who the Potters definitely have to thank for keeping the score to a minimum.
Rampant Rangers capped off a marvellous result and made it 3 games undefeated, conversely condemning Stoke 2 defeats in two, thus keeping the Potters off the top, and further denting their promotion credentials.
Full Time: QPR 3-0 Stoke City
Lee Camp 7/10
Had a couple of shaky moments, but dealt with alot of difficult things with ease. The keeper wasn’t tested an awful lot, and when he was called upon he dealt extremely well with his concentration never lacking.
Michael Mancienne 7/10
Played well down the right hand side. His excellent passing and incisive running really caused problems for the Potters and was constantly forward as another outlet of attack for the R’s. Stopped alot of crosses in from the left flank.
Damien Delaney 8/10
A much improved performance from the left back, who really suited the style that Stoke were throwing at him and the towering figure of Damien dealt with numerous things that Stoke threw at him. Also appeared a frustrated striker at heart on occasions breaking into the box in search of a goal.
Matthew Connolly 7/10
Dealt with a tricky customer in Sidibe extremely well in the first period, winning a number of headers over loftier players. Starting to build up a good partnership with Hall in the middle, making it two clean sheets in two.
Fitz Hall 8/10
Another commanding performance from Hall, and he is showing every penny of his worth to the R’s fans week in week out. His understanding with defenders is growing and his ability to do the simple things at the back that Rangers have been lacking in recent years, his heading under pressure was a joy to behold.
Akos Buzsaky 8/10
Akos was a menace down the right today, and looked at his most effective with the ball at his feet and running inside at the Potters centre back pairing. An expert cross for the Rangers second, and an expert finish for the third. Excellent contribution from the midfielder.
Hogan Ephraim 9/10
Truly impecable down the left wing, and is really starting to show why Rangers purchased him with a great reputation. His trickery was a constant menace to the Potters, and Wilkinson had to literally ‘Stop’ the midfielder on a number of occasions. Brilliant display.
Martin Rowlands 9/10
At the heart of the Rangers midfield and the engine room of the performance, rarely giving the Potters midfield room to move constantly dispossessing the opposition midfielder and dribbling and distributing well. Another joy to behold from a player that is playing better than ever.
Mikele Leigertwood 9/10
A brace for the midfield man who is turning in some inconsistent performances, but there is nothing wrong with the one he put in today. Constantly bombing forward, and the first goal was a trully fanstastic effort. Winning the ball and passing it on at every opportunity. Brilliant stuff from the midfielder.
Rowan Vine 8/10
His mazy running, directly to the heart of the Stoke defence was a constant menace to Tony Pulis’ team. Vine found himself in some great positions and is crying out for a goal to accompany some good form.
Patrick Agyemang 7/10
Will not have got into the game as much as he’d have wanted but still a fantastic contributer to proceedings. What’s going on though, he didn’t score?! Again?! In all seriousness the strikers goals will come once more as he creates some space for himself as he did today. Well played again.
Alot better performance, chased down alot and created himself a chance. Well done.
Came on to bolster the defence and give Fitz Hall a well deserved rest. Slotted in excellently and didn’t give the potters a sniff.
Came on to adulation, and seemed delighted to be playing as he was chomping at the bit on the touchline.
Luigi De Canio: 8 Has every reason to be delighted with his teams performance, you can think again if you think the sending off was the turning point. De Canio’s team came out on a mission and were well on top before the incident. An excellent performance and excellent use of the squad from Gigi.
Tony Pulis: 6 I have a certain amount of sympathy with the manager to a degree, but his team didn’t seem up to the task today and were taken to shreds by the R’s before the aforementioned incident. Every right to be disappointed with his players in a poor display.
Pre Match Prediction
I thought there would be goals in this game, as both defences don’t seem to be at their greatest. Rangers were rampant and ruthless infront of goal and got the 3 I predicted. Andy D’Urso probably saw that Stoke’s 2 were never forthcoming, but alot must be said for the defensive capabilities of the R’s to keep the Potters at Bay. All round excellent performance and result.