QUEENS Park Rangers battle against the drop took a setback at Villa Park this afternoon as Aston Villa came from a goal down to win 3-2.
Rangers had taken the lead through Jermaine Jenas before Gabriel Agbonlahor equalised just before half-time. Andreas Weimann then added a second for the home side after the restart before Andros Towsend levelled for the R’s.
But Christian Benteke’s 81st minute winner saw QPR’s survival hopes take a dent against one of their main rivals.
Redknapp made two changes to the side that beat Sunderland 3-1 last weekend. Keeper Julio Cesar returned between the posts – with Rob Green missing through illness – whilst Jenas was favoured over Junior Hoilett in midfield.
The R's started well and Chris Samba went close to opening his Rangers account in the 10th minute when Jose Bosingwa launched a set piece into the Villa box and Samba’s header forced Brad Guzan to make a spectacular save to turn the ball over for a corner. From the resulting flag kick the ball fell to Zamora in the six-yard box but the R’s forward couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet. It eventually found its way back to Samba 12-yards out who then forced another fine save from Guzan with a side footed shot.
QPR only had to wait another 13 minutes before they found themselves ahead at however. A misplaced pass on the halfway line by Villa substitute Joe Bennett found Jenas, who in turn played the ball forward to Zamora. The R’s striker went for goal against custodian Guzan - who did well to save - but with Jenas racing in on the follow-up his slide beat Bennett to the ball as the ex-Villa loanee stabbed home from close range.
Loic Remy, quiet up until this point, then tested Guzan from distance with a dipping shot that forced the American keeper to push over for a corner. He continued to be the busier of the two stoppers on the stroke of half-time as a fiercely struck free-kick from the corner of the box by QPR fullback Joe Bosingwa rattled the post.
However, against the run of play Aston Villa pulled themselves level through Gariel Agbonlahor seconds before the half-time whistle. A cross from Matthew Lowton on the right saw Cesar hesitate for Rangers and allowed Agbonlahor the freedom to head past the Brazilian keeper from six-yards to make it 1-1.
After the interval Redknapp replaced Zamora with Junior Hoilett and Rangers nearly found themselves caught out in the 58th minute when a strong run by Charles N’Zogbia forced a corner after Cesar turned a header at the back post over the bar.
From the resulting corner Aston Villa edged themselves in front as they made it 2-1 through Andres Weimann. Rangers only cleared the ball as far as Villa sub Bennett who knocked it to Weimann, he had his back to goal. Weimann managed to swivel and turn R’s centre-back Clint Hill on the edge of the box before firing past Cesar from 16-yards.
Rangers survived a number of scares as Weimann again went close to adding a third until the 73rd minute when Andros Towsend pulled his side level with his second goal in as many games thanks to a deflected shot from outside the area.
The winger, on loan from Tottenham, started the move in the centre circle picking out Remy who was strong in his surge forward. The French striker found Ji-Sung Park with his back to goal on the edge of the box, who simply rolled the ball back to Townsend, allowing him to hit shot that clipped the feet of Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar and whistled past Guzan.
QPR barely had time to draw breath before they found themselves on the back foot once more. A strong run from Weimann allowed the midfielder to cut the ball back across the box. With Cesar committed at the near post it allowed Christian Benteke the simple task of side footing into an unprotected net from 10-yards.
Five minutes of additional time was signalled and Hill went close to an equaliser with the last kick of the game but his effort from 18-yards was deflected over the bar as the final whistle blew.