QUEENS Park Rangers were left ruing a missed penalty from Loic Remy as they went down 3-2 against ten men at Fulham’s Craven Cottage tonight.
Rangers were given a second half mountain to climb when they found themselves 3-1 down against their west London rivals at the break.
However, Remy did add a second goal - only after his spot kick was saved by Cottagers keeper Mark Schwarzer moments earlier - before Steve Sidwell was sent off 12 minutes from time.
But despite the numerical advantage Redknapp’s charges were unable to find an equaliser as the R’s survival hopes took another huge blow.
Rangers chief Harry Redknapp made two changes to the side that lost 3-2 at Aston Villa a fortnight ago. Armand Traore was recalled in place of Fabio at the back whilst Adel Taarabt was handed a start in favour of Ji-Sung Park.
A nervy opening five minutes saw Stephen Mbia warm the hands of Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer from distance before two minutes later Julio Cesar was called into action in the R’s goal. Damien Duff turned QPR right-back Jose Bosingwa inside out before unleashing a low drive to Cesar’s right that the Brazilian stopper did well to keep out.
However, those heroics were soon undone when Fulham were gifted a penalty by Rangers centre-half Christopher Samba. The Congolese defender had first failed to deal with Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov, who flicked a direct ball into the R’s box and on to Ashkan Dejagah. With Samba trying to make up ground he fouled the Iranian in the penalty area leaving referee Lee Probert with no choice but to point to the spot. Berbatov stepped up and coolly dispatched from 12-yards, sending Cesar the wrong way.
Fulham really should have doubled their advantage in the 21st minute when a free-kick from Duff out on the right touchline was flicked on by Fulham skipper Brede Hangeland unopposed; but fortunately for the R’s Samba managed to get a crucial touch to deflect it out for a corner.
There was little respite for the R’s back four and a pass from Jose Bosingwa that caught Samba flat footed handed the Cottagers a second goal. Samba had earlier panicked in possession after a header from Clint Hill and Bosingwa's pass across goal caught him unaware for a second time - with Berbatov closing in - he easily won the ball before beating Cesar to his right from 10-yards, despite getting a hand on the ball.
Rangers night soon got a lot worse as Fulham went 3-0 ahead courtesy of an own goal from Captain Hill. Fulham left-back John Arne Riise easily brushed Samba aside on the dead ball line before his low cross into the 6-yard box was unfortunately turned pass Cesaar by the R’s skipper five minutes before half-time.
However, QPR were offered a glimmer of hope via talisman Adel Taarabt. Fulham surrendered possession in the centre of the pitch to ex-Fulham striker Bobby Zamora and he found Taarabt. His strong run ended with the Moroccan scoring from the edge of the Fulham area with a low strike across Schwarzer to reduce the deficit.
QPR came out of the starting blocks after a half-time talk from Redknapp quickly and Loic Remy forced Schwarzer into a save straight from the restart. The resulting corner then saw Mbia head wide before the R’s were handed a penalty of their own by referee Probert.
Fulham’s Sascha Riether had fouled Taarabt inside the box and with Remy taking responsibility for spot kick duties he could only watch on in disbelief as QPR missed their fourth penalty in a row, as Schwarzer saved his effort from 12-yards low to his left with a strong hand.
The Frenchman didn’t let it get to him however, when moments later he scored his fourth goal of the season. Mbia’s ball forward picked him out and after showing good strength to hold off Philippe Sendros he crashed his shot against the underside of the bar to make it 3-2 in the 51st minute.
Redknapp introduced Junior Hoilett for Taarabt for the final 15 minutes and as he entered the pitch Zamora tried to catch Scwarzer out with an overhead kick but the custodian dealt with the threat comfortably.
A sweet pass from Mbia on the halfway line then released Remy and with a twist and a turn he fashioned an effort but it was high and wide before Zamora forced a save with a shot from outside the box as Rangers continued to pile forward.
There was a sense that QPR’s fortunes were turning and when Steve Sidwell was sent off 12 minutes from time for a two footed lunge on Traore QPR were to play the closing stages against 10 men as they searched out an equaliser.
It didn't come and as the fourth official signalled five minutes of additional time as tempers on the pitch threatened to boil over as Rangers hopes of avoiding relegation continued to cool.