Fulham 3-2 QPR: Home side edge enthralling derby

Clive Rose

Martin Jol's side dominate the first half but allow QPR to play in the second, making way for a tense and nervy derby finale.

At Fulham, we never make things easy for ourselves. We like to lose to Juventus in the first leg just so we can beat them in the second. We like to secure Premier League safety with only twenty-or-so minutes left to play of the season. And we like to win our local derby games, half at a canter and half under the cosh.

Just to keep the fans interested.

It was 3-0 after 41 minutes here but some uncharacteristically sloppy play from Giorgos Karagounis allowed Adel Taarabt to send Queens Park Rangers into the break a far happier side.

From there, they sought to take the game to Fulham and would have done so successfully were it not for Mark Schwarzer. He saved a penalty while Steve Sidwell was sent off later in the game yet, in spite of their second half superiority, QPR just couldn't find a way through.

Harry Redknapp blamed Chris Samba for his side's downfall and this was a justified attack. His £100,000-a-week defender was to blame for two of our goals and, as the QPR boss also pointed out, moved up front without permission, stagnating their forward momentum.

But if you were to judge the game by the first 45 minutes alone, the away side were incredibly good value for their loss. Samba brought down a plucky Ashkan Dejagah after only seven minutes and Dimitar Berbatov, as you'd expect, dispatched the Fulham penalty calmly.

Two successive free-kicks nearly doubled the home advantage, Bryan Ruiz curling his just wide before Damien Duff's effort was nudged out off the back of Samba.

But it wasn't long before it was 2-0. Samba gave the ball away to Berbatov who nonchalantly placed it under Julio Cesar. QPR were in tatters.

The increased deficit seemed to muster something from Redknapp's men but Bobby Zamora's response was hardly what he was looking for. Armand Traore crossed into the Fulham area, Loic Remy nodded it on and Zamora fired high and wide, much to amusement of the Hammersmith End. He wasn't received well on his return to Craven Cottage.

Dejagah was forced off with an injury before Fulham made it three. A series of short passes - to the oles of the home fans - led to a cross from John Arne Riise which was flicked into his own net by Clint Hill. The Fulham fans were in dreamland.

But QPR at least had something to shout about before half time, as Taarabt finished cutely into the far corner just our of Schwarzer's reach. It was by no means deserved but it highlighted Fulham's defensive fragility.

Rangers took the initiative with immediate effect after the break and won themselves a spot kick as a reward. Karagounis was again at fault, bringing down Taarabt, but Schwarzer saved smartly from a tame Remy spot kick.

Remy, though, made up for it a matter of minutes later after sprinting clear of Philippe Senderos and hitting a shot at goal that bounced in off the underside of the bar.

The hoops were now piling pressure onto Fulham, with Remy seeing most of the chances flash before him. He fired wide one of his side's most threatening opportunities after being released by a lively Stephane M'bia.

Four minutes later, Sidwell was red-carded for a tackle that, at the time, looked reckless and over-the-ball. Replays show a different story but it is unlikely that Fulham will appeal. Martin Jol responded by pulling off a disappointing Urby Emanuelson - who had replaced Dejagah earlier in the game - and putting Emmanuel Frimpong in his place.

This shored up the Fulham midfield and made the final few minutes somewhat less nervy. In his minor cameo role, the Arsenal man looked impressive and resilient.

It's just a pity that, collectively, Fulham weren't. The ten men saw out the final twelve minutes - plus five added time - but, in truth, it should have been a much easier victory than it was.

QPR showed character in the second period but little conviction, while we showed our uncanny ability to make things more difficult than required. Both are hardly traits to admire.

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