RANGERS exited this year’s Emirates FA Cup competition at the third-round stage – despite making a good fist of things against Premier League neighbours Fulham.
In a tie that needed extra-time to settle matters, both QPR and their visitors were guilty of missing several fine opportunities before the additional 30 minutes ensued.
Fulham weren’t so wasteful in extra-time, though, with Bobby De Cordova-Reid (104 minutes) and substitute Neeskens Kebano (105+3) on target to see off the Super Hoops.
Rangers were last in action at Championship leaders Norwich City some 11 days ago, earning a 1-1 draw. Our first fixture of 2021, against Luton Town, was postponed owing to a Coronavirus outbreak at Kenilworth Road.
Fulham, meanwhile, went into this tie on the back of a two-week break after experiencing Covid-19 in their own camp – Scott Parker’s men not in action since a Boxing Day stalemate with Southampton at Craven Cottage.
Both teams named strong line-ups for this third-round clash. QPR boss Mark Warburton made one change to the starting XI held at Carrow Road, Macauley Bonne replacing Niko Hamalainen who dropped down to the bench.
The R’s lined up in a 5-3-2 formation: Seny Dieng; Todd Kane, Rob Dickie, Geoff Cameron, Yoann Barbet, Bright Osayi-Samuel; Dom Ball, Ilias Chair, Tom Carroll; Lyndon Dykes, Bonne.
Rangers fashioned the first couple of attempts, in what was a relatively-even opening.
Bonne’s close-range header, following Chair’s right-wing corner kick, flew just over the crossbar in only the second minute.
Eight minutes later, Chair’s distance blast forced a smart catch from Marek Rodak.
Visitors Fulham posed a greater attacking threat with every passing first-half minute.
On 20 minutes, Joe Bryan so nearly caught Dieng off his line following a week clearance, shooting inches past the upright. Six minutes later, Josh Onomah fired just past the left-hand post following good work from Bryan.
On the half-hour mark, meanwhile, Barbet produced an outstanding, surely goal-saving intervention to deny Mitrovic, who looked set to hammer home from six yards.
The opening period continued to be close, with both teams threatening once more before half-time.
First, Osayi-Samuel’s 38th-minute blast was repelled by Rodak, following Dykes’ low ball in from the right.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Mitrovic’s header from a corner dropped marginally wide of the right-hand post.
The first half would end goalless.
Rangers spurned a fine opportunity nine minutes into the closing period.
In the 54th minute, Kane’s right-flank centre eventually dropped for Bonne on 10 yards, whose half-volley flew over.
At the other end, Fulham also threatened on 58 minutes – Bryan shooting straight at Dieng with his weaker right foot inside the box.
Like in the first half, Rangers had Barbet to thank for an important piece of defending on 63 minutes, as the Frenchman hacked Mitrovic’s goal-bound effort off the line.
Rangers also twice went close three minutes later. Visiting goalkeeper Rodak fashioned two fine stops – first saving from Bonne at his near post before tipping Ball’s low effort from an acute angle wide.
Both sides had been guilty of wasting good chances and that was again the case in the 73rd minute, as QPR’s Dykes raced onto Dieng’s long ball over the top of the Fulham defence before shooting over on the half-volley from 12-yards out.
As the game headed for extra-time, Warburton made a first change for the R’s – introducing Charlie Kelman for Bonne in the 74th minute.
There were two further subs in the 81st minute, meanwhile, as Faysal Bettache and George Thomas replaced Carroll and Chair.
However, despite Rangers throwing on fresh legs, the tie couldn’t be decided in normal time.
QPR made another double change at the start of extra-time. Hamalainen and Conor Masterson came on for Osayi-Samuel and Cameron.
Fulham were first to go close in an extremely open first half of the additional time. In the 100th minute, De Cordova-Reid nodded Bryan’s hanging centre agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.
However, De Cordova-Reid would finally break the deadline four minutes later. The former Bristol City striker played a neat one-two with Mitrovic on the edge of the box before arrowing the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Kebano then put the tie to bed in first half injury time – blasting home from inside the penalty area after the visitors worked the ball from left to right.
Rangers were understandably left deflated as a result, and a comeback proved beyond them in the second period of extra-time.