YOSSI Benayoun’s first-half strike was enough to earn 10-man QPR all three points against promotion rivals Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night.
The Israeli midfielder provided the telling touch on the quarter-hour mark at Loftus Road, scoring his second goal in the space of four days before seeing red in second-half stoppage time.
Rangers – who struck the woodwork late on through Ravel Morrison – were indebted to Rob Green at the other end, preserving his 18th clean sheet of the season to keep the in-form Latics at bay.
Harry Redknapp – making two changes from Saturday’s dramatic late success at Middlesbrough – recalled Bobby Zamora in attack while defender Richard Dunne returned from his one-match ban.
The visitors arrived in W12 seeking to stretch a six-game winning run on the road, and came within inches of the lead on the 10 minute mark. After Clint Hill was adjudged to have fouled Jack Collison on the perimeter of the box, Josh McEachran sent the resulting free-kick flashing agonisingly past Green’s far post.
Instead, it was the R’s who made the breakthrough just after the quarter-hour mark. Tom Carroll’s pull-back found Hill lurking in the box, whose clever back-hell allowed Benayoun to finish from six yards, sliding the ball past Ali Al-Habsi’s dive in the Latics goal.
The goal did little to upset the visitors, though, who continued to control the opening stages. Another spell of possession created the next chance for James Perch on the angle of the area, whose fierce drive was fisted away by Green to safety.
The R’s number one was called upon again on 27 minutes to quell the visitors’ growing threat, palming away Nick Powell’s swerving shot from similar range.
The Latics sprung Green into action again less than two minutes later. James McClean forced the R’s goalkeeper to save with his legs from a tight angle before the pair came face-to-face again 60 seconds later. Green came out on top, this time smothering McClean’s snapshot from close-range.
Rangers weathered the storm, though, and looked bright on the counter-attack as the half wore on. Ravel Morrison got on the end of Carroll’s through ball but could only find Al-Habsi with his effort, while the similar fate befell Niko Kranjcar from the R’s next attack.
The R’s escaped in the final minute of the half, however, when McClean raced clear. The pacey winger missed the target to the relief of the home faithful, dragging his shot wide of the far post.
Redknapp shuffled his pack at half-time, introducing Gary O’Neil at the expense of Kranjcar.
The change couldn’t prevent Wigan starting the brighter in the second half, twice coming close to a leveller within two minutes of the re-start. James McArthur was foiled by Green from point-blank range, who came charging out of his goal to block McClean in his tracks moments later.
Only the woodwork denied Uwe Rosler’s side on 50 minutes, though. Ivan Ramis threatened from the back, seeing his towering header loop back off the crossbar.
At the other end, Rangers were left to rue a missed opportunity after Zamora saw a sight of goal go begging. After the R’s striker was halted in his tracks, Benayoun’s follow-up shot was squandered.
Benayoun fashioned the R’s next chance 20 minutes from time. The Israeli reacted quickest to Aaron Hughes’ floated cross but couldn’t prevent his cushioned effort from sailing over.
Meanwhile, Hill’s perfectly-timed challenge denied McClean another shot at goal following a swift counter-attack from the visitors left the R’s exposed.
The woodwork was left shaking again ten minutes from time, this time denying Rangers a speculative second goal. Ravel Morrison’s free-kick swerved over Al-Habsi but crashed down off the crossbar, while Zamora’s scuffed rebound was shepherded away from danger.
The home faithful felt an injustice shortly after after Benayoun and Ramis clashed off the ball. While the R’s goalscorer was cautioned, the Latics man escaped punishment despite seeming to aim a kick in the Israeli’s direction.
Redknapp made his final changes with five minutes remaining. Barton was forced off with a knock, handed Karl Henry his part for the closing stages while Yun Suk-Young replaced Morrison.
Four minutes added time handed the visitors fresh belief, marred by Benayoun’s dismissal for a second bookable offence.
There was time for one final chance, but once again Green stood firm, keeping out a last-gasp header as Rangers held on for maximum points.