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A cold Friday night was the setting for this West London Derby day between Slaviša Jokanović’s Fulham and Ian Holloway’s Queens Park Rangers. The noise coming out from the small Loftus Road was immense and South Africa road was packed with both excitement and expectation.
A game under the floodlights is always special and both teams were raring to go, with promotion once again on the cards for Fulham, and QPR set to improve after last season’s lacklustre finish.
The game started well for the Hoops, with dynamic Midfielder Luke Freeman driving forward at speed. He managed to pass the ball to former Brentford captain, left-back Jack Bidwell, who smashed the ball at goal, beating Button. It was ultimately blocked off the line by Ryan Fredericks.
But after being pinned by the constant pressure of Fulham’s attack, most notably by Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo, the visitors’ well-deserved opener finally arrived after Ryan Fredericks’ strike was deflected way off course by Jack Robinson and flew into the net, with goalkeeper Alex Smithies caught wrong footed.
Despite Sheyi Ojo pressing high and causing problems to QPR defence, his game was cut short after being stretchered off the pitch following a dislocated collarbone. At one point it looked like youngster Ryan Sessengnon would follow suit after getting a elbow to the face. Luckily for the 2,987 travelling fans, it was nothing serious and the highly coveted teen continued the game.
The Hoops’ night then got worse, as Norwegian Stefan Johansen’s low finish gave the Cottagers a 2-goal advantage. But the game could have been sealed, with the referee awarding a penalty following Joel Lynch’s foul on Neeskens Kebano. Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa stepped up to take the penalty, and many think that he should not take another one ever again, as he sent the ball high and wide into the sea of Fulham supporters.
Holloway knew he had to change his team, sending on Matt Smith and Conor Washington, playing very narrow. Holloway’s substitutions seemed to pay off, with Washington netting a goal in extra time to give some hope to the Loftus Road Faithful.
A reinvigorated QPR almost scored another, with both Luke Freeman and Matt Smith getting very close before Chelsea loanee Tomas Kalas managed to clear the ball off the line, as a shaken Fulham held on to their lead.
In the dying embers of the game, goalkeeper Alex Smithies came up for the last corner of the match, swerving through the Fulham defenders. He soared up in the air and managed to head the ball towards goal, going inches wide.
Fulham sit just outside the promotion places, at 10th, while QPR continue their 5-game winless streak, sitting at a lowly 16th place.
Fulham boss Slaviša Jokanović recognised how hard the game was. After looking in control in the first half, he said,
“We had to be brave. The last few minutes it was a completely different game. A lot of things were happening in the penalty box, but we defended well.”
This is even more clear after seeing the QPR’S 25 Shots at Fulham’s goal, with 4 staying on target. Fulham proved that they have the minerals to win games. However, at times, they need to learn how to kill them off.
Despite a loss, Ian Holloway realised it was a changed and dramatically improved performance in the last 15 minutes of the game. He said,
“We kept going and we should have got a point out of that. But such is life.”
Fulham now look ahead to their next clash against Preston North End at Home while QPR look to end their winless streak, against Sunderland in an away clash.