Last Gasp Heartbreak For QPR
AN INJURY time equaliser from Steven Caulker ensured that Bristol City took a share of the spoils in an enthralling Bank Holiday Monday encounter.
In a fixture packed with incident and excitement, Rangers had a glut of chances in the opening period only to see wasted opportunities come back to haunt them in the second half.
Brett Pitman capitalised on a Clint Hill error to hand the Robins the lead before some lively invention by Adel Taarabt allowed Alejandro Faurlín to equalise moments later.
Rangers thought they had taken all three points after a generous penalty decision allowed Taarabt to net from the spot but Caulker crashed home an injury time header to hand City a point.
Despite having the vast majority of the game Rangers were left to rue their missed opportunities with the leaders wasteful in front of goal and ultimately made to pay.
Neil Warnock made three changes from the side that was defeated at Norwich with the banned Matt Connolly, Heidar Helguson and Leon Clarke dropping out for Bradley Orr, Rob Hulse and Tommy Smith.
Paddy Kenny therefore started behind a back four of Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Clint Hill and Kyle Walker with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry once again the preferred midfield partnership.
Smith partnered Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie in behind the lone front-man Hulse - Petter Vaagan Moen received international clearance and was named on the bench for Rangers.
Bristol City named England international David James in goal behind a back four of Cole Skuse, Steven Caulker, Kalifa Cisse and Lewin Nyatanga.
Albert Adomah, Marvin Elliott, Lee Johnson and Jamal Campbell-Ryce played across the midfield with Brett Pitman and R's nemesis Jon Stead starting in attack.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City
Rangers were looking for revenge as they took to the field at Loftus Road with defeat at Norwich seeing their lead cut to four points. They faced a Bristol City side that were riding the crest of a wave following their thumping victory over fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff City.
The hosts started the more positive of the two sides and despite the in-form Brett Pitman looking lively early on it was the league leaders who saw the majority of the ball. The several changes served to bolster the current set-up and as a result Rangers appeared more comfortable in possession.
Kyle Walker was looking lively down the left flank while Adel Taarabt was linking well with Alejandro Faurlín to carve out the Rangers attacking threat. The Moroccan hit a speculative 30-yard drive that failed to test David James but nevertheless it was a bright opening.
On the ten minute mark Rangers could have had the advantage after more bright work from Taarabt. His interplay with Tommy Smith allowed the recently-signed wide-man to centre for lone forward Rob Hulse.
Despite finding a good position in the area Hulse could only loft the header over the bar. A good opportunity for Rangers who were certainly having the better of the early running. By comparison Bristol City were looking to attack predominantly on the counter-attack.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce was looking the danger man in the early exchange beating former Robins man Bradley Orr for pace on numerous occasions. Eventually Orr was cautioned for the foul on the winger and would have to watch his step from there on in.
Rangers continued to assert the majority of impetus on the encounter with Taarabt and Jamie Mackie linking up effectively to see the latter fire right-footed past the left-hand upright. It was reminiscent of their link-up play against Swansea but the final finish was lacking on this occasion.
The wave of home pressure continued with Clint Hill sending a delightful cross-field pass to Smith. An excellent clipped cross from the wide-man was glanced towards goal by Hulse. He was denied with a save from point-blank range from James.
It was starting to appear one way traffic with City going into their shell and attempting to soak up the pressure and play on the counter-attack. The pace of Albert Adomah and Campbell-Ryce were their key weapons but Walker in particular was in fine form to snuff out the rare attacks.
The R's were certainly looking livelier than in recent games and a smart free-kick from Smith found Taarabt surging into space. The Moroccan playmaker rather snatched at the opening and slashed wide of the right-hand upright.
For all of Rangers' dominance it was the Robins that should have had the advantage on the cusp of half time. The hosts' defence was carved open with some rare attacking endeavour and a useful touch from Pitman saw him one-on-one with Paddy Kenny.
The striker had the ball caught under his feet and Kenny was equal to his subsequent effort, diving on the ball at the second attempt. It was a fleeting opportunity but nevertheless a warning sign to heed for the dominant hosts.
It was Rangers that finished the half on top with Mackie once again creating some space down the right and crossing for Hulse. The effort was deep and Hulse could only glance his effort over James' bar as the two sides went in level.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Bristol City
As the sides took to the field for the second period it would be Bristol City that would be the happier of the two sides given the current score-line. Rangers were looking the better of the sides but couldn't capitalise on the opportunities to press their advantage home.
Taarabt was once again featuring heavily in the early showing with his powerful drive well blocked by Marvin Elliott before pulling away on the left and making life rather difficult for Cole Skuse. His trickery and skill were yielding little however and out of nothing City took the lead.
A hopeful lofted pass was sent in the direction of the Rangers area and a disastrous header from Clint Hill allowed Brett Pitman
to roam in behind. The striker gleefully took his chance, slamming home right-footed into the bottom left-hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Bristol City
An individual error had cost Rangers dear once again, but far from resting on their laurels Rangers hit back harder and immediately went on the search for an equalising goal. It was Mackie that inspired the revival and helped haul Rangers back level.
His sensational bursting run down the right saw him beat several City players before delivering deep. The ball fell to the feet of Taarabt, the Moroccan dazzled his counterpart before squaring for Alejandro Faurlín
The Argentinean made no mistake and dispatched the close range effort with his left-foot. It was deserved from Rangers' perspective and they arguably would be stronger given the fact they overturned the visitors goal.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Bristol City
The immediate response was imperative for the confidence of the players and also in light of Bristol City's defensive tendencies throughout the clash thus far. Once again Rangers continued to press the visiting side and pinned them back in their half for a long duration.
Hulse was looking useful in spells, predominantly with his back to goal, as he took an excellent touch to pluck a long ball from the air. His touch and turn was impeccable but his left-footed shot lacked the ruthlessness required as it sailed wide of the left-hand upright.
A succession of corners from Taarabt failed to find their desired mark and City were able to clear their lines and look to break with Campbell-Ryce and Adomah. Stead by comparison was surprisingly quiet given his record against Rangers but as the hosts were shown earlier it only takes a second to score.
Jamie Mackie had an opening with just over 15 minutes remaining when Taarabt's deep cross found Mackie. Unfortunately he took too long to control the lofted cross and his eventual shot was blocked away to safety by Spurs loanee Caulker.
The Robins were evidently struggling to deal with the skill of Taarabt and Pitman was cautioned after dragging the Moroccan down by the waist. A tackle more akin to Rugby but nevertheless effective in halting Rangers progress towards goal.
Walker - who sees his loan spell come to an end shortly - was keen to try his luck from distance and a useful dummy by Shaun Derry allowed the full-back to fire goalwards. However his curling drive was misguided and flew over James' left hand post.
It was becoming a frustrating common theme for the table-toppers who were getting close to that elusive second goal but lacking the ruthlessness to get in behind and punish the Robins rearguard, despite their own spirited showing.
They were handed a life-line with five minutes remaining however as Elliott was rightfully adjudged to have climbed all over Rob Hulse. It was a little generous from Mr Graham but nevertheless the contact could not be disputed and Elliott was cautioned for the offence.Adel Taarabt
stepped up and sent the former England 'keeper the wrong way, hitting the ball low to the right and watching it nestle in the back of the net for his 12th goal of the campaign. It was just reward for the pressure that the hosts had piled on throughout the encounter.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Bristol City
Taarabt was subsequently withdrawn and there was a debut from the bench for Petter Vaagan Moen, the Norwegian international recently signed from Brann. City meanwhile threw on former QPR man Damion Stewart, and he went straight into the attacking line.
As one would expect City came out of their shell and started to flourish, showing a wealth of attacking endeavour and Rangers seemed to struggle with this sharp shift in mentality. Derry was attempting to pull the defence clear as they continually sat deeper than required.
Paddy Kenny pulled off a phenomenal save to deny Campbell-Ryce, as the pacey wide-man cut in from the left and let fly with a dipping, curling right-footed effort. Kenny's smart save saw the stopper tip wide of the right hand upright.
Orr's nervous misguided header saw City earn a corner at the death and this passage of play earned them the desired result and saw them snatch a rather undeserved point in the dieing embers of this expressive encounter.
Campbell-Ryce sent in a corner from the left and Steven Caulker
powered home a header from close range. It was disastrous defensively once again for QPR who allowed the Spurs loanee to ghost in and snatch the late leveller.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Bristol City
An enthralling encounter had one final twist in the tale as Vaagan Moen's excellent centre was flicked on by Hulse and Smith arrived at the far post only to smash a guilt-edge opportunity high, wide and handsome to compound Rangers' luck in front of goal on the day.
Rather disappointing then that City managed to net their equalising goal in the time added on for their prior time-consuming tactics, but it certainly highlighted to Rangers that individual errors will need to be eradicated if they are to be the side that breaks from the pack.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Bristol City
Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Clint Hill, Kyle Walker, Shaun Derry, Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt (Petter Vaagan Moen 87), Tommy Smith, Rob Hulse.
David James, Cole Skuse, Steven Caulker, Kalifa Cisse, Lewin Nyatanga, Albert Adomah (Danny Haynes 74), Lee Jonhson (Damion Stewart 88), Marvin Elliott, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Jon Stead (David Clarkson 66), Brett Pitman.
Taarabt was once again a creative influence on Rangers and grabbed a deserved goal on the day to take his tally to 12.
No Rangers player really stood out on the day but Taarabt rarely wasted a pass and looked lively whenever in possession. At times City had to double up on him which created space for others.