Festive Cracker in W12
FOUR star Queens Park Rangers were triumphant in a Christmas cracker, dispatching of promotion rivals Swansea City at Loftus Road.
The R's were able to dispel successive displays with a vintage second half performance seeing them dispatch the sorry Swans.
In fairness to the visitors the score-line did rather flatter the Championship leaders at times, but Rangers were able to display a new-found ruthlessness that crowned a hard-working display.
Jamie Mackie's opener was his first since scoring a double at Leicester back in September, but then controversy ensued with a double sending off.
Alan Tate and Clint Hill saw red in a melee and despite dominating vast spells of possession, the visitors couldn't hold off the irresistible Adel Taarabt.
The playmaker was brought down for a spot kick that Heidar Helguson dispatched, before slamming home a deserved double to hand Rangers the convincing victory.
Neil Warnock opted to make two changes to the side that were defeated at Leeds, with Bradley Orr and Rob Hulse dropping out at the expense of Heidar Helguson and the influential Alejandro Faurlín.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill - Faurlín once again partnering Shaun Derry in the heart of midfield.
Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith started behind lone front-man Helguson - recalled to the side following a disappointing display against former club Watford.
Swansea started with Dorus de Vries in goal behind a back-line of Angel Rangel, Garry Monk, Ashley Williams and Alan Tate.
The midfield trio comprised of Darren Pratley, Joe Allen and Kemy Agustien, with Nathan Dyer and former QPR loanee Scott Sinclair playing off lone forward Craig Beattie.
Queens Park Rangers
Walker - Connolly - Gorkss - Hill
Faurlín - Derry
Mackie - Taarabt (c) - Smith
Rangel - Williams - Monk - Tate
Pratley - Allen - Agustien
Sinclair - Beattie - Dyer
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City
Festive cheer was plentiful in the capital as they headed into the clash as Christmas tree-toppers. Not even the tube strike or successive defeats could dampen spirits in West London with Neil Warnock hoping that his side could brush off the winter cobwebs.
A bitter chill was in the air as once again sub-zero conditions took hold, thankfully however the pitch was in immaculate condition and the streets surrounding the immediate vicinity of the ground were deemed safe for spectators.
Both sides came into the game with defeats under their belts and were keen to get their respective ambitions back on track. Indeed it was the visitors who started brighter in a bid to capitalise on some fragile recent form from the leaders.
The attacking endeavour of Scott Sinclair was always going to prove difficult to manage, and when he found space in the area hearts were in mouths. He drew an excellent point-blank save from Paddy Kenny before the ball was hacked clear.
Swansea were looking intent on using their attacking outlets and used the ball effectively in the middle of the park. Rangers meanwhile were struggling to build a concerted period of possession and thus found it difficult to create opportunities.
The Swans were predominantly seeing the ball from distance and a host of speculative drives failed to test Kenny. Kemy Agustien in particular was unrelenting in his attempts to test the R's stopper, but failed to genuinely carve out a chance of note.
Adel Taarabt was looking to orchestrate a more influential display than in recent games, and despite frustrating at times, his cross found its way to Heidar Helguson. The Icelandic international forced a smart save from Dorus de Vries from his resultant header.
The R's were starting to pursue a period of attacking pressure with Taarabt growing back to his influential best. His weaving run and creativity helped create the opening goal, a chance carved out with some vintage play from the Moroccan.
The playmaker picked up the ball on the left flank before easing his way through three challenges and laying the ball across for Jamie Mackie
. The former Plymouth Argyle man netted his first goal since September and slammed home right-footed into the bottom left hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Swansea City
The goal itself was evidently a great relief to Mackie himself with Rangers now rejuvenated and looking to assert some genuine impetus on the clash. This nearly had the desired result moments later when Kyle Walker burst into the fixture.
The Tottenham Hotspur loanee exploded down the right wing before Alan Tate senselessly hauled him to the ground. Tate then clashed with Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie before the referee consulted his linesman before taking action.
Tate was sent off by Mr Crossley, who still wanted words with QPR full-back Clint Hill. Something in the melee then prompted the official to reduce the hosts to ten men and create a lot more space to exploit on a narrow surface.
The two sides then made changes with Nathan Dyer being replaced by Neil Taylor and Bradley Orr replacing the unfortunate Tommy Smith with Walker moving to left-back and Mackie supporting the midfield duo.
The resultant free-kick was chipped delightfully by Taarabt towards the top right hand corner, de Vries clattered into the post in his attempt to keep the ball away from the target, but Swansea looked better overall at capitalising on the spare space.
Ashley Williams was keen to bring the ball from the back and use his options wide, and despite getting men behind the ball, Rangers seemed incapable of closing down the promotion challengers who were afforded a great deal of space.
Rangers had another chance from a set-piece and there could be no question who cast his eye over the effort. Taarabt's floated cross to the far post came at an awkward height for Helguson who could only deflect the ball wide of the mark.
Swansea then had a great chance to level matters when Joe Allen was given time and space inside the area. His rasping effort was fortunately over Kenny's cross bar and it was another let-off for a defence evidently struggling for form.
The half was brought to a close after four minutes of injury time, with Neil Warnock and his side happy with the lead at the break. It wasn't a vintage Rangers display by any stretch of the imagination with the space benefiting the visiting side, but nevertheless they went into the break in front.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Swansea City
Rangers were now tighter to the opposition after the break, with the earlier warnings giving the R's cause for concern. Once again though it was the Swans that saw a great deal of the ball without harming the hosts.
The grit and determination of the Rangers midfield was proving crucial with Faurlín's fight and distribution certainly appearing a missing ingredient in recent games. Taarabt also was growing into the clash and creating nuisance in behind Helguson.
His direct and purposeful running saw him wriggle free of his markers and pick a perfect through ball to Walker. The marauding defender saw his effort agonisingly deflected away for a corner, following an excellent passage of play from QPR.
The two sides were well-matched with the table-toppers playing more like the away side at times, breaking in numbers against an unguarded Swansea back-line. The pressing of Rangel and Taylor meant at times that Williams and Monk were over-exposed.
This was highlighted shortly after the hour mark when Taarabt played tormentor once more. He made a fool of defenders once more following an expert flick on, before Williams went to ground and tripped the Moroccan in the heart of the area - there was little doubt for Mr Crossley who pointed to the spot.
Williams was given a yellow card with Garry Monk managing to persuade the referee that he was indeed the final man. Heidar Helguson
stepped forward and coolly slotted into the bottom lefft hand corner, sending de Vries the wrong way.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Swansea City
Helguson was growing in influence throughout the game, winning virtually all of the aerial battles and proving a worthy adversary indeed as he marshalled the forward line. This latest goal eased the concerns of QPR despite Swansea continuing to see a lot of the ball.
Possession was never truly converted into meaningful opportunities despite a brief flurry of panic in the Rangers defence. The ball seemed to pinball around the Rangers back-line for eternity as efforts rolled free in the area.
Several Swansea forwards had opportunities to get a shot away but the resiliency of the Rangers defence was evident for all to see. Where they lacked quality at times the effort and commitment to tackles was unrelenting.
This graft and commitment to the cause eventually saw Rangers through with the lively Adel Taarabt
netting the clincher. The Moroccan once again latched onto a flick-on from Helguson to dazzle his marker and slam left-footed beneath the body of de Vries.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Swansea City
The goal encapsulated the best of Rangers, good teamwork and effort to get the ball into an attacking position before Taarabt put the final touches to a fine move. Taarabt's delight was matched by his team-mates who raced to celebrate with the lively playmaker.
The goal prompted Brendan Rodgers to withdraw Craig Beattie and Kemy Agustien in favour of Jermaine Easter and Stephen Dobbie. An attacking change on the face of it, it actually only served to destabilise the Swans.
Their previous possession football had gone by the wayside and their confidence on the ball crumbled. As such Rangers were able to keep hold of the ball and continue their onslaught on the Swansea target, with little reprise from the weary visitors.
Helguson was proving a constant thorn in the side with a persistent run culminating in a right-footed effort. It was parried away expertly by de Vries before he thwarted Taarabt from point-blank range with another stunning save.
He wasn't to be denied however as with ten minutes remaining QPR netted a fourth. It was certainly worth waiting for as Adel Taarabt
jinked his way past Allen with relative ease, nutmegging the midfielder before baring down on goal.
The Moroccan then unleashed a powerful right-footed effort from the left which was too hot to handle for de Vries. It slammed into the bottom right hand corner and sent Loftus Road into raptures - a ground bursting at the seams with home support would definitively go home happy.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Swansea City
Rangers had cantered to this eventual score-line with an important Christmas schedule now underway with a bang. Taarabt was taken off to a standing ovation with Martin Rowlands entering the field to an equally buoyant reception.
Rob Hulse replaced Heidar Helguson whose day's work had earned him the right to be singled out for praise as a useful side in Swansea City ended a decent performance with a whimper. A final opportunity saw Rowlands hack an effort over the bar from just outside the area.
A positive display from the hosts to dispel their recent blip in form, while Swansea continue their decline and slip disappointingly away from the top two places. Rangers now go into Tuesday's clash with Coventry City brimming with confidence.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Swansea City
Paddy Kenny, Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill (Sent Off 19), Alejandro Faurlín, Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt (Martin Rowlands 84), Tommy Smith (Bradley Orr 20), Heidar Helguson (Rob Hulse 86)
Dorus de Vries, Angel Rangel, Garry Monk, Ashley Williams, Alan Tate (Sent Off 19), Darren Pratley, Joe Allen, Kemy Agustien (Stephen Dobbie 71), Nathan Dyer (Neil Taylor 20), Scott Sinclair, Craig Beattie (Jermaine Easter 71).
In truth you cannot look beyond Taarabt for the award this week. Had a hand in two of the goals and dispatched the other two with breathtaking ruthlessness.
His skill and vision throughout was a vast improvement on recent weeks and the space he received really made Rangers tick and ultimately win.
Other notable mentions must go to Jamie Mackie for ending his goal drought while Heidar Helguson was an incredible force throughout, winning virtually all his aerial battles - both deservedly netted.