Austin winner v Sunderland
After three defeats in three – one of them a thumping at the hands of London rivals and another against lower-league opposition in the Capital One Cup – R’s fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst for the season ahead.
Harry Redknapp’s men put in a forgettable display during their 4-0 loss at Tottenham, while their opening-day defeat to Hull City, too, would have especially hurt in front the Loftus Road faithful. That’s why it was more important than ever to grind out a home win against Sunderland in the third Premier League game of QPR’s campaign.
Cue a Charlie Austin penalty that secured the west London side three points – the first real moment of QPR’s season.
Kranjcar free-kick v Stoke City
What followed the Sunderland win, however, was another drab, lifeless performance at Manchester United, one that had QPR fans fuming at just how easily Louis van Gaal’s side were allowed to walk all over Redknapp’s men. A week later, the R’s hosted Stoke City at Loftus and it was becoming increasingly clear that QPR would have to rely on their home form if they wanted to get anywhere this term.
With just minutes left, though, Redknapp’s side trailed 2-1 against former boss Mark Hughes. And it was down to one man to save them: Niko Kranjcar. Luckily for the R’s, he did this:
Vargas scores v Liverpool
But there would be no respite after the 2-2 draw Kranjcar’s wonderful free-kick earned. Two more away trips brought two more defeats – and Redknapp’s position was falling under increasing scrutiny. What was expected now of QPR against a faltering Liverpool side was not necessarily a result but a performance: one that showed that these players actually cared about their side’s fortunes.
Liverpool duly left west London with a 3-2 win. But the scoreline didn’t tell the whole story. QPR led with minutes to go thanks to an Eduardo Vargas finish and a Steven Gerrard own goal (Vargas was involved here, too). Suddenly, Loftus Road was filled with hope.
Austin strikes again
And that type of performance finally yielded a result eight days later, in what was undoubtedly QPR’s best match of the season so far. Against an Aston Villa side that enjoyed over 60 per cent of possession on the night, Austin netted twice in clinical fashion as the home fans produced a memorable atmosphere in the capital.
Holding the champions
In the R’s’ last Premier League game before the international break, it looked as though the 3-2 defeat to Liverpool was a real turning point in their season. Since losing to Brendan Rodgers’ side, QPR had looked a different team. Their strong performance levels maintained as they beat Villa and were only bettered at Stamford Bridge by a contentious Eden Hazard penalty.
So, when defending champions Manchester City arrived at Loftus Road, Redknapp’s men played with no fear. Austin put his side ahead (while also having two goals disallowed) before Bobby Zamora forced an own goal from Martin Demichelis.
Both were cancelled out by Sergio Aguero strikes – but the first was the result of yet another contentious decision. A point against City, then, especially when it should have been three, suggests plenty of promise for the coming weeks, with QPR now just one point from safety.