Dimitar Berbatov scored twice as Fulham withstood a second-half barrage to beat QPR 3-2 in a see-saw thriller of a West London derby at Craven Cottage.
Berbatov netted an early penalty before adding a second, with both goals a direct result of blunders from Chris Samba.
A Clint Hill own-goal put the hosts 3-0 up before Adel Taarabt pulled one back before half-time.
Loic Remy missed a penalty but fired in a rasping finish almost immediately afterwards as the match caught alight early in the second half.
QPR piled the pressure on but could not find an equaliser, with Fulham down to 10 men for the latter stages after Steven Sidwell – who had won Fulham’s penalty – was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Armand Traore with 11 minutes remaining.
The result sees QPR stay second bottom, ahead of Reading on goal difference but seven points from safety with seven matches remaining, while Fulham are 10th, one point behind Swansea with a game in hand.
To say QPR were the architects of their own downfall in the first half would be something of an understatement as Fulham’s goals all came from nightmarish defending.
With seven minutes on the clock Samba was caught out of position but still managed to tackle Berbatov. However, the loose ball spun to Sidwell, who was brought down by a clumsy challenge from the Congolese defender.
As expected Berbatov coolly stroked home the penalty, taking the Bulgarian's recent tally to four goals in four games - for the first time in his Premier League career.
Samba did well soon afterwards as he prevented Brede Hangeland from heading in a second, but the next goal was all the work of the former Blackburn defender.
Renowned for his preference to clear the ball at all costs, Samba inexplicably tried to play it out of his own box, his technical limitations exposed by Damien Duff, who set up a simple finish for Berbatov.
QPR did try to launch a fightback as Fulham old-boy Bobby Zamora blazed a volley wide, while Remy was denied a finish by Philippe Senderos’s excellent intervention.
Fulham had eased off a touch, although a wonderful piece of skill by Berbatov wowed the fans, the former Manchester United and Tottenham star flicking the ball audaciously over Traore before drilling a cross-shot that Jose Bosingwa was fortunate to divert into the arms of keeper Julio Cesar.
The visitors had improved though, Andros Townsend almost burying one of his thunderbolts but putting the ball just wide.
Their hopes of a comeback took a huge blow though when, four minutes before the break, Hill – who had been hapless throughout – was unfortunate to divert John Arne Riise’s cross past Cesar, although Bryan Ruiz would have scored.
The Hoops did pull one back just before half-time, thanks to a slip from Giorgios Karagounis, whose stray pass fell to Zamora, his touch releasing Taarabt who fired in a rasping drive from the edge of the box.
Redknapp made a bold change at half-time, replacing Hill – who had been booked – with Nedum Onuoha, whose pace proved a good counterbalance to Samba’s aerial ability.
QPR launched into the hosts from the off, Remy forcing a good stop from Mark Schwarzer straight from the restart and Stephane MBia flicking the corner wide.
QPR then got a penalty when Karagounis was adjudged to have fouled Taarabt just inside the box – it looked soft, but not as soft as Remy’s spot-kick, which was easily saved by Schwarzer, the loose ball hacked away by Duff.
The Frenchman atoned for the miss almost immediately though, beating an offside trap poorly laid by Hangeland before expertly controlling an MBia pass, skipping away from Senderos and firing a fantastic finish in off the roof of the bar.
With the half only five minutes old it was game on, and QPR threw everything at the hosts: Townsend had another howitzer batted away by Schwarzer, Samba hit a low drive wide, Remy smashed his finish over after a fine dribble, and Zamora forced an excellent save from the now-overworked Australia goalkeeper.
Sidwell was given his marching orders for one of those familiar challenges made in desperation after a heavy touch – in his eagerness to atone for losing the ball, the midfielder lost control of his body, clattering into Traore before being sent down the tunnel by Lee Probert.
But despite being a man light, Fulham coped fairly well at the end, limiting the visitors to a couple of late long-shots as they ran down the clock with some short passing and time wasting, for which both Senderos and Karagounis were booked.
The result, while showcasing admirable resolve from QPR in the second half, means Fulham are all-but safe while their local rivals inch ever closer to the Championship.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) – The best player on the park, not for the two goals he was gifted, but for some outrageous examples of the skill many Fulham fans are happy to pay their entry fee to see.
FULHAM: Schwarzer 8, Riether 7, Senderos 6, Hangeland 6, Riise 6, Dejagah 6, Sidwell 5, Karagounis 5, Duff 7, Ruiz 7, Berbatov 8; Subs: Emanuelson 5, Frimpong NA.
QPR: Cesar 6, Bosingwa 6, Samba 4, Hill 4, Traore 6, Mbia 7, Townsend 7, Jenas 6, Taarabt 7, Remy 7, Zamora 7; Subs: Onuoha 6, Hoilett 6, Mackie NA.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dimitar Berbatov