Cyrus Christie proves the unlikely hero as Fulham revive to earn a double over QPR
QPR 1 Fulham 2
Fulham rallied well after shipping a goal after a minute to claim a double over their west London neighbours – a rare collector’s item of a goal from Cyrus Christie settling the outcome.
The Whites looked out-of-sorts at the outset and boss Scott Parker must have feared a repeat of the first two games since the resumption of the Championship – which both ended in defeat.
But after Jordan Hugill had shocked them with the opener, Harry Arter levelled it up before the break and Christie’s superb strike claimed the points to ease those promotion nerves.
The game appeared to be drifting towards a draw, but on 75 minutes, Christie was given too much room, advancing onto a pass from sub Josh Onomah, and he unleashed a beautiful shot into the bottom right hand corner from outside the box.
It was his first in the league for Fulham and first since September 2017, when he scored for previous club Middlesbrough - against the Whites.
No goals and no points between the two teams in four combined games since the Championship emerged from hibernation suggested anything might happen. This was a match that both teams badly wanted to grab by the throat, but one in which the promotion-chasing visitors appeared even more moribund than their mid-table hosts early on.
The game was barely 50 seconds old when Ryan Manning swung a cross in from the left and Hugill rose above Tim Ream to nod down past a helpless Marek Rodak. It was the striker’s 14th goal of the season.
Without suspended talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic, following retrospective action over his elbowing of an opponent in the 3-0 defeat at Leeds on Saturday, Fulham looked almost dejected – as if resigned to the increasingly likely prospect of having to settle for the play-offs rather than automatic promotion.
But after 20 minutes, the Whites – or reds today – finally got going and after Tom Cairney had fashioned a volley chance for Harrison Reed, which was clubbed against the base of a post, Arter drew the visitors level, cutting in from the right and letting fly with his left boot.
Kelly, it should be said, ought to have done much better with the shot as it crept low inside his left-hand post.
Rangers almost regained the lead after a blistering counter-attack. Luke Amos, restored to the starting XI, set Bright Osayi-Samuel scampering away down the left and was on the end of the cutback from the flying winger, who had ghosted past Michael Hector. However, with the goal at his mercy, Amos blazed over.
Hugill also went close with a fine turn and shot with the left peg from the edge of the area – Manning having again picked him out. It needed an agile spring from Rodak to tip the ball over as it arrowed towards the top corner.
Kelly made amends for his first-half error with a fine stretching save to turn aside an Anthony Knockaert curler – one fashioned from a trademark cut inside from the right flank by the Fulham winger. But the winner soon followed.
Manning, who put in a good shift, was inches away from saving the day with a header that crashed against the bar in a game where Fulham had slightly more polish, but not the monopoly of chances.
QPR: Kelly – Kakay, Cameron, Barbet – Kane (Shodipo 80), Ball, Amos, Manning – Eze - Osayi-Samuel (Oteh 80), Hugill. Subs not used: Lumley, Shodipo, Chair, Rangel, Masterson, Bettache, Gubbins, Clarke
Fulham: Rodak – Christie, Hector, Ream, Odoi – Cairney (Sessegnon 90), Reed, Arter (Onomah 71) – Knockaert (Bryan 71), Reid (LeMarchand 79), Cavaleiro (McDonald 90). Subs not used: Bettinelli, Johansen, De la Torre, Jasper