QPR 1 Everton 2
‘Phenomenal’ Seamus Coleman prepared for Sunday’s crucial European Championship qualifier against Poland by inspiring Everton to three priceless Premier League points and plunging Queens Park Rangers into even deeper trouble.
The man from Donegal scored Everton’s first and then supplied the winner 13 minutes from time to help the Merseyside strugglers closer to safety.
Despite Coleman’s fine personal form, Everton’s has been terrible. They had only managed two Premier League wins since QPR visited Goodison Park on December 15 and started the day just nine points ahead of the west London side – and only six clear of relegation.
Their season looked like it was turning a corner when they beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 at Goodison Park, then followed it up with a resounding 3-0 win at home to Newcastle. But they unravelled again in Kiev, throwing away their aggregate lead and crashing out of the Europa League.
Defeat here would have increased the pressure as we head into the final eight games of the Premier League season. But now they sit nine points clear of danger.
Coleman, for one, heads into it in fine fettle and Martinez reserved special praise for the 26-year-old.
“Seamus today was remarkable really. I thought he was magnificent in his defensive duties but then when you’ve got that composure, that quality.
The first goal is a striker’s goal,” said the Spaniard.
“He is what people call the modern full-back. He can defend with intensity but when he gets higher up the pitch he’s got a goal, and assist and that pace. We just love him to bits and we are really enjoying seeing him grow.”
Everton withstood heavy early Rangers pressure before launching a textbook counter-attack in the 18th minute, to which Coleman applied an exquisite finish.
Little Aaron Lennon surged into the QPR half and released Arouna Kone down the left. His cross was knocked back to Leon Osman, who in turn fed Coleman who did not break his stride as he guided a fine finish home via the inside of the far post.
It was a rare moment of Everton brilliance as QPR continued to dominate. The hosts looked like they had finally found a way through moments after the restart but the linesman’s flag halted celebrations once Bobby Zamora had bundled home the rebound from Junior Hoilett’s effort.
Instead it was left to subsitute Eduardo Vargas to crash home the
equaliser in the 65th minute when he slammed into the roof of the net when Everton failed to clear a corner.
However parity lasted just 12 minutes as Coleman provided the perfect cross for the waiting Kone, whose sliding effort was blocked only for the ball to roll invitingly to Lennon who steered home the winner.
Martinez added: “This was probably the most satisfying win since I arrived at Everton. I think we are adapting to becoming a team who can cope with Europe and domestic competition.
“The performance was very clear, it takes character and guts. The satisfaction was immense.”
This was the latest in a series of ‘must-win’ games for QPR which came and went without any more points registered. They are now four adrift of safety and face back-to-back away trips – to West Brom and Villa – before home derbies against Chelsea and West Ham.
Rangers manager Chris Ramsey said: “At this stage we cannot keep being unlucky can we? They played well today and they showed everybody there is plenty of fight left in them. The next eight games are very important.
“We’re not going to go down with a whimper. We’ll keep fighting. I’m sure there are teams who have been in worst situations who have survived. We need six points from our next two games.”
QPR: Green 6; Isla 6, Onuoha 6, Caulker 7, Yun 6; Hoilett 5, (Vargas 7, 60), Barton 7, Sandro 6 (Henry 71, 6), Phillips 7; Zamora 6 (Taarabt 82, 7), Austin 6.
EVERTON: Howard 6; Coleman 8, Jagielka 6, Stones 6, Baines 6; Gibson 7, McCarthy 6, Osman 6; Lennon 7, Lukaku 6 (Barkley 6, 67), Kone 5 (Naismith 6, 79).
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