QPR 2 Fulham 1
QPR finally won a league game at the 17th time of asking today, dispatching west London rivals Fulham to move off the bottom of the pile.
Adel Taarabt’s inspired performance proved the difference at Loftus Road as Harry Redknapp’s side belatedly broke their duck with a 2-1 victory against their near neighbours.
Few could have predicted the Hoops’ winless start to a campaign, with a summer of high-profile acquisitions and ambitious plans raising expectations in Shepherd’s Bush.
Last weekend’s draw at Wigan saw them break the record for the longest winless start to a Premier League season, with chairman Tony Fernandes this week admitting the season has been “nothing short of a disaster”.
The Rs have, though, shown signs of improvement since Redknapp succeeded Mark Hughes at the helm, following up three successive draws with a first win today - thanks in no small part to Taarabt.
The Morocco international proved a thorn in Fulham’s side from the outset and saw an effort deflect in off Brede Hangeland seven minutes into the second half.
Taarabt doubled QPR’s advantage with an exquisite solo effort and they held on for three points despite substitute Mladen Petric’s late strike.
Djibril Cisse was one of three QPR changes made for the game and he almost made an immediate impact, forcing Mark Schwarzer into action moments after kick off.
The Frenchman was played through by Taarabt, who appeared fired up and came close from 40 yards in just the second minute.
It proved the start of a QPR onslaught, with Cisse firing wide before Jamie Mackie wasted a glorious chance to break the deadlock when latching onto a poor John Arne Riise backpass.
A marauding Taarabt run through the middle ended in a strike that tested Schwarzer as QPR continued to show a level of skill and spirit rarely seen this season.
Fulham were struggling to get a foothold on proceedings but were almost gifted an opener by goalkeeper Robert Green.
Redknapp stuck with the England international despite the return of Julio Cesar from a groin injury – a move that almost backfired when he sent a miskick straight to Hugo Rodallega.
The Fulham attacker could not make the most of the lax clearance and, after Taarabt lashed wide and Cisse tested Schwarzer, there was another fortuitous moment for the hosts when referee Martin Atkinson waved away penalty appeals for an apparent Stephane Mbia handball.
The match lost its tempo at the end of the first half but the 3,148 travelling fans were enjoying themselves, goading the hosts with chants of “stand up if you’ve won a game”.
However, it was QPR supporters with something to shout about when the game restarted for the second half.
Stephen Kelly came on for the seemingly injured Sascha Riether when play resumed, with QPR taking just seven minutes to score their first goal against Fulham since 1983.
Like so many times before, Taarabt made a burst forward but this time his strike took a lucky deflection of Hangeland, wrong footing Schwarzer and trickling home.
The playmaker was booked for his celebrations but it could not stop QPR’s momentum, with Cisse curling just wide in the 60th minute after Chris Baird was dispossessed.
Fulham were rarely threatening the hosts, who deservedly got their second when Taarabt burst through in the 68th minute.
After picking up the ball just inside the Fulham half, the midfielder went past Hangeland and showed a few neat touches, before putting past Schwarzer with the outside of his right foot.
Fulham’s frustrations were clear in a match they failed to assert their authority, with Steve Sidwell and substitute Ashkan Dejagah soon picking up bookings.
The former will miss the trip to Liverpool next week as it was fifth yellow card of the season and Petric ensured a nervy ending when his strike deflected in off Mackie’s outstretched leg.
Schwarzer somehow clawed out a goalbound Cisse header at the death as QPR went onto secure victory, leading to raucous celebrations at the final whistle.