QPR 1 Southampton 3
If QPR’s defence had been anything like as robust as Tony Fernandes’ of Mark Hughes in recent weeks, the Welshman’s position would be perfectly secure tonight.
But even Fernandes will struggle to justify his continued backing of the Rangers manager to disgruntled fans – not to mention his fellow board members – after a pathetic surrender helped Southampton to a deserved win.
In the match dubbed ‘El Sackico’ because of the pressure on both managers, Nigel Adkins’ side boldly took the game to Rangers and were 2-0 up at the interval after goals from Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon.
Junior Hoilett reduced the deficit with a header from Adel Taarabt’s cross four minutes after the restart.
But the Saints stood firm and QPR’s fate was sealed by Anton Ferdinand’s own goal seven minutes from time.
Southampton almost took an early lead when Puncheon’s right-wing cross ended up clipping the post after the unmarked Adam Lallana was just unable to connect.
Adkins’ men have struggled this season but, unlike Hughes’ expensively-assembled team, they do not lack spirit.
And that was summed up by Lambert, who put himself in harm’s way to bundle the ball in from close range after Puncheon’s shot had been blocked on the line by Jose Bosingwa.
Rangers spent much of the first half effectively playing with only two men, Ryan Nelsen and Taarabt, with the latter offering their only real attacking threat.
Taarabt was denied by a near-post save from keeper Paulo Gazzangia after evading three challenges on his way into the box.
But Southampton continued to have the upper hand and doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.
The unchallenged Puncheon capitalised on yet more slack defending, cutting inside onto his left foot and firing home from 25 yards.
Rangers rallied for a brief spell after Hoilett’s goal, but quickly faded and Puncheon missed a good chance to make it three before Ferdinand turned Morgan Schneiderlin’s cross into his own net.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Boswinga (Fabio 73), Ferdinand, Nelsen, Traore; Faurlin (Mackie 45), Diakite (Derry 70); Granero, Taarabt, Hoilett; Cisse.
Subs not used: Green, Wright-Phillips, Dyer, Ehmer.