Five Star Heidar Strikes Again
Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
19/11/2011 - 1500
HEIDAR Helguson showed his midas touch once more, netting a brace to make it five in five for the Icelandic international.
Neil Warnock stated he was looking for a younger twin brother of the striker, but the genuine article continues to impress after a battling display against Stoke City.
The striker equalised a Jonathan Walters effort when he powered home an Armand Traoré cross, before netting what proved to be the winner with a genuine poachers effort.
Luke Young had given Rangers the lead after some typically spirited work from Jamie Mackie down the left, before Ryan Shawcross made it a tense finale dragging the score back to within a goal.
It mattered little as Joey Barton led his side through a battle, and came out the other end as the victors - moving into ninth in the Premier League table.
Neil Warnock was dealt a blow in the warm up as Brian Murphy limped away with a calf injury, while Jay Bothroyd and Adel Taarabt were omitted due to injury.
Paddy Kenny therefore started behind a back four of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Clint Hill - the latter reintroduced after his omission for the last two games.
Jamie Mackie, Alejandro Faurlín, Joey Barton and Armand Traoré made up the midfield quartet, with Shaun Wright-Phillips playing centrally off lone forward Heidar Helguson.
Stoke started with Thomas Sorensen between the sticks with Andy Wilkinson, Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Danny Higgingbottom across the back four.
Rory Delap and Dean Whitehead started in the middle, with lively duo Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington flanking forwards Peter Crouch and Jon Walters.
KICK OFF: STOKE CITY v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
As the noise levels continue to mount in the Britannia Stadium it was becoming abundantly clear the level of aptitude and attitude that would be required to collect any kind of reward from what is correctly billed as a tough encounter.
Left-tenant Barton led his troops onto the field as a cauldron on noise welcomed the two sides - both sides looking to bounce back from defeats - Stoke's notably a hammering at the hands of relegation fodder Bolton Wanderers.
For any that have dwelled in caves for the last ten years, the hosts' style of play was typically direct and testing. The Rangers defence was constantly tested in the early offing with former Potter Clint Hill at his best to keep his former employers at bay.
Rory Delap was proving a pivotal figure for the home side, delivering his customary brand of direct and powerful throw-ins. Paddy Kenny was showing the signs of struggle as he relied in his defence to clear their lines on numerous occasions.
Inside eight minutes however, the pressure told and it was a surprisingly soft goal for the visiting side to concede. A barrage of long bombs had been thrashed away but a moment of uncharacteristic lapse from Joey Barton cost Rangers dear.
Dean Whitehead dispossessed his ponderous play before Peter Crouch caress the ball through for Jon Walters. The Irishman did the rest - effortless class to roam away from his marker and power home beyond Paddy Kenny and into the bottom left hand corner.
GOAL: STOKE CITY 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The home supporters were in full voice, but the atmosphere was tinged somewhat with an air of nervousness. This was fully epitomised as Rangers starting to assert some impetus in the fixture, Sorensen missing his punch to the gasp of the capacity crowd.
Moments later Alejandro Faurlín used some excellent build up play from Traoré and Mackie before placing straight at Sorensen from the edge of the area. A useful opening effort from the visiting side who were getting scant reward for their desire.
It was nervy stuff from the Rangers rearguard who were nearly architects of their own downfall once more. A hopeful ball appeared to be easy pickings for Anton Ferdinand and Kenny, as Crouch continued to bear down.
The striker nipped in behind a hesitant Ferdinand before Kenny managed to claw a hand at the former QPR forward's effort. The ball was subsequently hacked away to safety, but only for a moment as Stoke ramped up the pressure.
A Matthew Etherington free-kick was delivered with menace into the area, but the decidedly troubled Kenny spilled the ball in the six-yard box. He recovered well to grab the ball at the second opportunity.
Rangers were attempting to play the football, but in the face of the effective aerial barrage that the hosts were providing it was proving very meek indeed as a stern defensive unit mopped up the tentative passing play with ease.
It was starting to appear more positive from QPR after the 20-minute mark as the Potters appeared to have their threat nullified momentarily. Neat interchange from Wright-Phillips and Faurlín set Traoré free down the left.
The Senegalese international did tremendously well to reach the pass and his surprise first time cross was hit with pin-point precision. Heidar Helguson looked imperious as he arrived unmarked and powered an unstoppable header beyond a helpless Sorensen.
GOAL: STOKE CITY 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers were certainly the entertainers in this keenly-fought battle, but as many of the clubs that visit Stoke can testify - entertainment counts for little in the final reckoning unless the qualities required can prevail.
The visiting side displayed this attitude in spades, relentless fighting and pressurising an undoubtedly talented Stoke line-up. Etherington displayed the subtle class that the hosts had lacked when he surged across the field with great purpose.
He surged across from the right, going past four men before clipping an effort across the goal, evading both Crouch and the target as Paddy Kenny watched the tame attempt drift wide of his left hand upright.
A first time shot from Crouch moments later was all the City could carve out as Rangers' renewed vigour and desire was infused by some classy attacking football and the calibre of pass and move that saw them retain the ball to great effect.
The touch and poise of the visiting side earned them a deserved goal as Wright Phillips and Mackie once again proved their attacking credentials. Enterprising and effortless, Mackie worked some space on the right-hand side of the area.
His cross found the man that started the move Luke Young to bury the opportunity beyond Sorensen and round off a thoroughly convincing spell of possession - he duly drew the accolades in front of a delighted away following.
GOAL: STOKE CITY 1-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was virtually the final action of a thoroughly entertaining half of football. A game where the fixture ebbed and flowed with Rangers looking to counter-attack City's set-piece prowess - promising much for another eventful half.
HALF TIME: STOKE CITY 1-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
On the evidence of the opening few moments, few could have predicted that Rangers would leave the field with an advantage, notably with the rare addition of a Luke Young goal to round off some excellent football.
The opening exchange was predictably heavily fought with a number of early sighters going in. Both Barton and Traoré attempted speculative drives from distance before Whitehead drilled wide by a distance.
It was Rangers that extended their lead when a Joey Barton corner was cleared only as far as the former Newcastle United man. His delightfully whipped centre found its way to Heidar Helguson who ghosted beyond his marker to slam home.
GOAL: STOKE CITY 1-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
While Rangers were struggling with Stoke's aerial game, the Potters had little answer to QPR's pace and movement on the break - and that previous elusive ruthless streak had been discovered in the guise of Heidar Helguson.
The home side was shell-shocked, and Rangers continued to provide the Potters with a stern test of their defensive credentials. There was nearly a third four minutes later as Rangers continued to turn the screw.
Wright-Phillips latched on to an inviting centre from the right only to see his effort come back off the upright. Helguson put away what he'd hoped would prove the hat-rick, only to be denied by Darren England's flag.
Some dynamic wing-work from Etherington down the left saw his subsequent cross bend dangerously towards the target. Kenny displayed excellent athletic ability to tip the effort over the bar.
The fixture continued to throw up its share of excitement and Stoke brought the deficit to within a goal. A cross from the right flank was met by Robert Huth, whose looping header drifted towards the target.
Ryan Shawcross was on hand to glance beyond Traoré on the line and give Stoke a much-needed life-line. It certainly brought the dormant crowd to life, with a famous atmosphere previously reduced to but a whimper.
GOAL: STOKE CITY 2-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Stoke now had the wind in their sails and the momentum shifted once more in the hosts` favour. Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones were sent on in search of an equalising goal - immediately lifting the mood around the Britannia.
Huth came close with another effort, firing a stinging effort wide of Kenny's right hand upright. It was tense times for the visiting side who were fighting hard to keep the buoyant hosts at bay.
Then came a couple of defining moments in this encounter. Firstly Huth took a tumble in the heart of the Rangers' area, claming a foul from Barton - the referee waved the appeals away, displaying nerves of steel considering the consequences.
Substitute Glenn Whelan then came within inches of levelling with an audacious volley from the edge of the area. The ball looped agonisingly over Kenny's head and over the bar.
Five minutes of injury time ensued and Rangers battled hard with every inch of sinew and grit. Ferdinand and Gabbidon were joined by the evergreen Helguson in powering aerial balls away from the target.
Mike Jones blew the final whistle to a rapturous reception from the visiting supporters - it was truly a moment to savour as Rangers did what Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United failed to do - win at Stoke City.
Rangers catapulted themselves up to ninth in the table, while Stoke pondered another defeat, their fifth successive in the Premier League.
FINAL WHISTLE: STOKE CITY 2-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Thomas Sorensen, Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Danny Higginbottom, Jermaine Pennant (Ricardo Fuller 69), Rory Delap, Dean Whitehead (Glenn Whelan 85), Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch (Kenywne Jones 64), Jon Walters.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Clint Hill, Danny Gabbidon, Alejandro Faurlín, Jamie Mackie, Armand Traoré, Joey Barton, Luke Young (Bradley Orr 77), Heidar Helguson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand.
Two goals, a string of knocks and still Heidar had the better of the Stoke back four. A classy performance from an excellent player.