An early Dimitar Berbatov brace and a Clint Hill own goal were just enough to secure all three points for Fulham against a determined QPR side in an action-packed West London derby, with the Cottagers holding on for a 3-2 result.
An experienced and regimented Fulham side started the stronger of the two teams, carving out good early chances while keeping the QPR attacking force at bay.
Their pressure paid off when Christopher Samba was forced into scything down Ashkan Dejagah just inside the QPR penalty area after eight minutes, leaving referee Lee Probert with little choice but to point to the spot. Berbatov stepped up and coolly put the ball away past Julio Cesar to give the home side an important early lead.
Fulham's dominance continued in full force right from the restart as a lackluster QPR side looked nervous at the back, and that vulnerability culminated in a terrible mistake from Samba after 22 minutes that gifted Berbatov with his second goal of the game. The big Congolese defender took too long on the ball and lost possession inside his own penalty area, allowing the Bulgarian to break free in front of goal and calmly side-foot the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
The lead was then extended to three goals with five minutes left to play in the first half, when, unable to deal with a cross from John Arne Riise, Hill put the ball into the back of his own net with his shoulder.
Down 3-0 after only 41 minutes, QPR looked dead and buried, but Taarabt was on hand to pull a goal back at the end of the first half with a wonderful solo effort that ended with him firing in an unstoppable low shot past an outstretched Mark Schwarzer.
Spurred on by Taarabt's goal, QPR started the second half in top gear and was rewarded with a penalty after 48 minutes when Giorgios Karagounis fouled Taarabt on the edge of the penalty area. The spot-kick responsibility was given to Loic Remy, but Schwarzer was able to palm the Frenchman's tame effort into the path of Damien Duff who cleared the ball from danger.
The visitors continued fighting at full force, though, and Remy was able to atone for his miss when he put his side back into the game just three minutes later with a rocket of a shot that bounced off the crossbar and over the line.
In stark contrast to the first half, QPR remained on the front foot for the remainder of the second half, and things went from bad to worse for Fulham when Steve Sidwell was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Armand Traore with a little more than 10 minutes left to play.
Despite a plethora of chances, the visitors were unable to capitalize on the one man advantage and a visibly nervy home side was able to hold on for the remaining moments to secure a hard-fought win and deny QPR a memorable and important comeback and leave the club in dire trouble of being relegated.
- Sports & Recreation