RANGERS were denied the perfect start to 2015 by Wilfried Bony’s stoppage-time equaliser which rescued a point for 10-man Swansea City on New Year’s Day.
Leroy Fer’s stunning long-range opener – scoring for the third time in his last five home outings - looked to be QPR’s match-winner only to be pegged back in a dramatic finish.
Wayne Routledge was sent off late into his return to W12, but the winger’s current employers would leave Loftus Road with a share of the spoils after Bony’s last-gasp leveller finally broke the R’s resistance.
Harry Redknapp made one change from Sunday’s stalemate with Crystal Palace. Eduardo Vargas, a second-half substitute against the Eagles, was restored to the starting XI whilst Junior Hoilett dropped to the bench.
Swansea were 2-0 winners when the sides met less than a month ago, and it was the visitors who settled quickest – coming close to an early opener through Routledge. The former R’s winger broke the offside trap but was denied by Rob Green, who raced out of his goal to get a touch to the ball before Richard Dunne cleared the danger.
Routledge threatened again moments later but could only drag a long-range shot harmlessly wide of Green’s right-hand post.
Meanwhile, Rangers had to wait until the quarter-hour mark to fashion their first effort at goal. Austin reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box but a deflection looped his volley into Lukasz Fabianski’s clutches.
Fabianski was left clutching thin air on 20 minutes, though, as Rangers broke the deadlock in spectacular style. Fer took aim from 25 yards, unleashing a blistering right-footed drive which sailed into the top corner.
One almost became two less than two minutes later. Vargas shrugged off no fewer than three Swansea men to dig out a delicious cross onto the head of Zamora, whose frustration was clear to see after failing to find the target from six yards.
Rangers were relieved not to rue the miss when Nathan Dyer stole possession in midfield shortly after. He subsequently found Bafetimbi Gomis but the Frenchman could only flash a shot wide of Green’s goal.
Gomis took aim again from City’s next attack, missing by similar proportions from long-range.
At the other end, Mauricio Isla almost doubled the R’s lead when he found himself in an unfamiliar position outside the opposing penalty box. The Chilean brought a smart save out of Fabianski, while the offside flag prevented Zamora profiting from the rebound.
Zamora was involved in the R’s final chance of the half. His touch from Austin’s cross found Vargas at the back post, who crashed an effort against the upright from the tightest of angles.
Rangers continued where they left off after the re-start, twice coming close to a second goal in quick succession. First Austin’s downward header was well kept out by Fabianski down low to his left, before Fer’s next attempt from distance deflected inches over the Pole’s crossbar.
Chances continued to come at both ends early in the second half. Joey Barton was next to have a header saved by Fabianski, shortly before Gylfi Sigurdsson and Routledge both placed shots from the 18-yard area either side of Green’s goal.
Meanwhile, Fer almost provided a carbon copy of his opening strike 20 minutes from time. The Dutchman, on this occasion, skewed his half-volley a couple of yards wide.
Fer and co. had Green to thank for preserving the lead when substitute Bony looked to level the scores from 20 yards. The striker’s free-kick was destined for the top corner before the R’s number one dived away at full stretch to claw the ball away for a corner.
Green’s goal continued to come under mounting pressure with ten minutes to go. Marvin Emnes was next to be frustrated, seeing a diving header cleared off the line by Dunne as the R’s defence stood firm.
Vargas wasted a decent chance to ease the tension when he fired into the side netting, while Hoilett replaced Zamora for the closing eight minutes.
Rangers were soon up against ten men, as Routledge’s return to W12 ended early. The winger reacted angrily to a challenge by Karl Henry, who was booked for the foul, and was dismissed for violent conduct in the skirmish which followed.
Swansea’s despair soon turned to delight, though, responding by scrambling an equaliser in injury time. Bony jinked his way into a shooting position 18 yards out before toe-poking his shot beyond Green to break Rangers hearts.
There was almost one final twist but neither Austin or Barton could turn the ball home from close-range as both saw efforts blocked on the goal-line at the death.