A SOLITARY goal from Mikele Leigertwood was enough to secure a long-awaited first win of 2009 in W12.
The R`s first win in ten games came courtesy of a well guided header from the stand-in skipper who guided Jordi Lòpez`s curling free kick beyond the reach of Dorus de Vries.
Rangers had in truth put in a performance of a similar calibre to recent weeks, but in this particular match lady luck shone on W12 as they bagged their first goal in four games and condemned Roberto Martinez to back to back defeats for the first time in his tenure.
The performance marked the coming of age of young Adel Taarabt on loan from Tottenham Hotspur as his trickery and sublime skill delighted the Loftus Road crowd and spurred the R`s on to a much needed victory.
A timely blow to Swansea`s playoff hopes which sees hope spring eternal that QPR may well finish their season with a bang.
Paulo Sousa once again opted for a 4-5-1 formation making several changes from the side that drew 0-0 away at Southampton this weekend. Moroccan loanee Adel Taarabt was thrown in on the left flank with Samuel Di Carmine and Fitz Hall both thrown in replacing Wayne Routledge, Dexter Blackstock and Damion Stewart respectively who all dropped out of the squad.
Radek Cerny began in goal with Hall partnering Kaspars Gorkss in the centre of defence – Matthew Connolly and Peter Ramage lined up in their familiar full back berths. Into midfield and Jordi Lòpez sat in the holding role with Hogan Ephraim and skipper Leigertwood sat just in front. Di Carmine was the solitary striker being flanked by Taarabt and Alberti.
Roberto Martinez opted to rest some of his bigger talents ahead of the clash in W12 with top scorer Jason Scotland and influential winger Nathan Dyer both dropping to the bench. There was a welcome return for defender Gary Monk who recovered sufficiently from a back injury to take part.
Still however there was a plethora of talent on display for the Swans with talented youth player Joe Allen starting in midfield alongside Jordi Gomez with duo Guillem Bauza and Gorka Pintado sufficiently rested to take their place in the starting line-up.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City
The game kicked off in W12 with the home supporters in somewhat expectant mood – at times you could hear a pin drop as the Loftus Road support seemed lifeless and bereft of voice. They could be excused after some disappointing outcomes in recent weeks have seen them drop out of the playoff chase.
The visitors started the stronger and were evidently fired up following the surprise home defeat by Crystal Palace and Spaniard Jordi Gomez was in no mood to hang around for another defeat as he tested Radek Cerny from distance.
An initial effort from distance was fielded comfortably by the R`s stopper but the second gave him a little more trouble as the venomous, dipping drive saw Cerny spill at the feet of Gorka Pintado, but recovered sufficiently in time to leap onto the loose ball.
Rangers were constantly threatening on the break with Hogan Ephraim the heartbeat of the side in his central midfield role. His drives forward added to the mounting frustration as no real chances of note were fashioned from the enterprising runs of the former West Ham man.
Mikele Leigertwood was also struggling to make an impact with passes once again going astray and mutterings from the home support adding to an early disappointing showing. But nevertheless the sprightly feet of Ephraim and debutante Adel Taarabt helped to lighten the load on a suffering side.
When Ephraim and Leigertwood linked up in the middle to find a rejuvenated Peter Ramage on the right whose deflection fell into the path of the Moroccan loanee whose drive found Row Z of the School End. Rangers not necessarily creating meaningful chances, but chances nonetheless – something which has been at a minimum in recent outings.
A clumsy challenge from midfielder Darren Pratley on Leigertwood gave the R`s a chance from a set-piece, with Spaniard Jordi Lòpez standing over the ball on the right hand side of the area. The midfielder picked out the run of Mikele Leigertwood to perfection with the former Sheffield United man charging in to glance his header into the top right hand corner.
A goal that didn`t look at home at Loftus Road when analysing the R`s recent forward`s woes, but the stand-in skipper showed that power wasn`t necessary to score the perfect goal, as goalkeeper Dorus de Vries was left forlorn with the R`s taking the advantage.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Swansea City
With that the R`s had their first goal in five games and the Loftus Road crowd could once again have something to cheer. The relief was visible not only around the crowd but also on the field of play and in the dugout as at last Rangers had a lead to defend.
After a good start Swansea were looking a shadow of the side that drew on all their grit and guile to earn a point at the Liberty Stadium earlier this stadium. The side fielded in W12 this evening lacked much of the creative outlet and determination on display that night with the Swans a shadow of their former selves.
A creditable away crowd has come to the capital from South Wales and were seeing their boss resting key players when they are in the middle of a playoff push – hardly ideal for supporters who parted with hard earned cash for the privilege of viewing their second string.
The last 15 minutes of the half was played out with QPR in control of the fixture and the visitors struggling to assert a foothold on the clash. For the first time in a long time the crowd rose as one to salute a good first half display that had yielded a goal for the Rangers faithful.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Swansea City
Whatever Martinez had said to his players at half time clearly had the desired effect as the Championship`s surprise package were beginning to live up to their pre-match billing. Thomas Butler and Gorka Pintado linked up down the left to bamboozle Fitz Hall with the latter forcing Cerny into a marvellous close range stop at his near post.
That wasn`t enough for the persistent forward whose attempted follow-up was ably blocked by the sizeable frame of Latvian international Kaspars Gorkss. An early warning which the R`s were slow to heed as the visitors embarked on a lengthy spell of pressure.
Rangers` defensive partnership of Gorkss and Hall was standing tall in the wake of some persistent pressure. The Latvian was thoroughly dominant in the aerial battle against Pintado and Bauza with the intelligence of the pairing visible at times in the pass, while also having the sense to clear their lines when required.
The hosts were becoming a side looking more comfortable on the counter attack with wingers Alberti and Taarabt showing their creative flair in wide areas. Taarabt in particular was wowing the home crowd with a stunning selection of tricks straight from his skills repertoire.
The Tottenham loanee linked up sparring partner Hogan Ephraim as they put on a display akin to something which resembled Soccer AM`s skills school – the two combined to create a chance for the former West Ham United man whose shot found De Vries in good form to hold with ease.
Nathan Dyer was thrown on for the visitors with a section of Rangers support able to continue their agenda starting with Bradley Wright-Phillips at the weekend. Some opted to chant insults towards the loanee while others preferred to get behind their improving outfit.
Matthew Connolly`s error nearly gave the Southampton man a chance to hit back immediately when the former Arsenal full back headed across his area evading both central defenders. The pacy winger picked up the loose ball and bared down on goal, but his shot was stifled by some powerful defending from Kaspars Gorkss.
Rangers were beginning to stroke the ball around nicely on the counter attack with Matteo Alberti becoming particularly prominent on the right hand side. His ball inside to lone forward Di Carmine was controlled well and moved on to Taarabt whose effort dipped narrowly over the right hand upright.
The fans called for Rowan Vine as the R`s spurned another opportunity, but Sousa decided to hold off on re-introducing the forward and instead opt for the returning Heidar Helguson, Samuel Di Carmine making way for the Icelandic international.
Jason Scotland had finally been introduced by Roberto Martinez to the great delight of the travelling support, and it was he who struck fear into the heart of the Rangers rearguard with his raw power a distinct change from the technical ability of the prior partnership.
That is not to say that the Trinidad born forward wasn`t technically able as he span on the ball in a key area in an attempt to produce a notable chance. A scramble ensued in the area with Fitz Hall forced to hack the ball away before Scotland could carve out a chance of note. Hall was left floored in the subsequent challenge and visibly struggling as he played through the pain barrier.
Rangers were pushing forward in full flow with pace and skill in attacking areas causing untold woe in the heart of the Swansea defence. Gary Monk was forced to slice over his own cross bar after Hogan Ephraim`s perfectly tuned cross had the returning defender in all sorts of bother following good build up play involving the lively Taarabt.
The injury finally told for Hall who was withdrawn by Sousa in preference of Irish international Damien Delaney who looked to celebrate St Particks Day with a victory. He slotted in at left back with Matthew Connolly moving into the central role.
Taarabt managed to eke his way through the smallest of gaps evading all oncoming challenges as he slipped in Helguson. The forward was forced to stab a hurried shot towards the target which scooped hopelessly over the bar.
Backs to the wall defending ensued at the end with Rangers sensing the pressure of expectation, and Swansea with little to lose as three minutes was announced by rookie referee Graham Horwood. Colossi Gorkss and Connolly proved impregnable in their role at the heart of the defence as the R`s clung on to a much needed three points.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Swansea City
Queens Park Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Fitz Hall (Damien Delaney 84), Matthew Connolly, Matteo Alberti, Jordi Lòpez (Liam Miller 87), Mikele Leigertwood, Hogan Ephraim, Adel Taarabt, Samuel Di Carmine (Heidar Helguson 84).
Swansea City: Dorus de Vries, Ashley Williams, Darren Pratley, Jordi Gomez (Nathan Dyer 62), Gary Monk, Gorka Pintado (Jason Scotland 69), Angel Rangel, Guillem Bauza, Joe Allen, Albert Serran, Thomas Butler.
Paulo Sousa: 7/10 – Got his just deserts for weeks of hard work in keeping his side level headed in the face of chaos elsewhere. Some supporters have been unhappy where as others could look to this display and feel vindicated in their trust of the Portuguese boss.
He got his selection right this evening down to the final detail with the selection of Hall and Taarabt over Stewart and Routledge who needed a much earned rest. It only seemed a short while before a goal and a win was to come along and tonight was his night.
Roberto Martinez: 5/10 – Played with fire and lost this evening as he rested some of his valuable players with one eye on Saturday`s fixture. He maybe came to W12 looking for a point but arguably he could say that the side he put out were good enough to win.
Jason Scotland and Nathan Dyer were two key players that he chose to drop from the line-up and it didn`t pay dividends for the Spaniard who lost back to back games for the first time in his managerial career.
Mr G Horwood: 6/10 – Mr Horwood had a reasonable control of the fixture at times but had a tendency to give a flurry of cards when it wasn`t warranted. There were several big decisions that he wouldn`t give and probably got it right giving nothing when Alberti was alledgly held back inside the area.
Certainly not the worst referee I`ve seen this season but there is certainly room for improvement from the official who reffed his first Rangers clash.