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AFC Bournemouth: Ruthless QPR defeat Cherries
QPR 3 Cherries 0
HARRY Redknapp got the better of his former club tonight as Queens Park Rangers underlined their status as title favourites in a ruthless win over Cherries.
Redknapp, who famously began his managerial career at Dean Court, saw the Hoops claim the points in a feisty – and occasionally controversial – clash at Loftus Road.
Cherries had chances against the division’s meanest defence and were well in the game during the early stages but clinical QPR eventually stamped their authority by maximising their own opportunities to leave the Dorset outfit with one victory during a testing 11-match run.
The hosts demonstrated why they remain unbeaten on home turf in the league as emphatic finishing from Charlie Austin, Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips settled the contest.
Former Poole Town striker Austin had already been denied by a smart Lee Camp save when he coolly converted from close range on 27 minutes.
QPR then reacted angrily after Cherries captain Tommy Elphick had looked fortunate to escape punishment for appearing to handle as he slid in to stop Austin’s run on goal.
Brett Pitman twice went close to a reply but Cherries’ bright start to the second half was abruptly halted when Hoilett doubled the advantage before Phillips produced a tremendous solo effort in the closing stages.
Following the 1-1 draw against Brighton, Cherries boss Eddie Howe opted to make three changes, with the most notable seeing record signing Tokelo Rantie named among the substitutes.
The striker was joined on the bench by Eunan O’Kane and Ryan Fraser as Andrew Surman, Shaun MacDonald and Marc Pugh were all handed starts.
QPR, who went into the match in third position but still overwhelming title frontrunners in the eyes of bookmakers, fielded a star-studded team packed with international and top-flight experience, a fact highlighted by the likes of Jermaine Jenas and Niko Kranjcar being forced to settle for substitute berths.
MacDonald was deployed as a deep-lying midfielder, tasked with shielding the defence in a 4-1-4-1 formation which saw Pitman operating as a lone frontman.
Matt Ritchie unleashed a 20-yard drive with his trusty left foot while, at the other end, QPR’s ace marksman Austin served warning of his renowned aerial prowess when he forced Camp into a sharp tip-over after he had met Danny Simpson’s cross with a trademark header.
It did not take long for engine-room foes Harry Arter and Joey Barton to clash. The pair were always likely to enjoy a duel and referee Andy Woolmer decided that a stern word was enough when, following a robust Barton foul, the former Premier League star hit the deck and pointed the finger at Arter for his apparent retaliation.
Cherries were denied an opener when Richard Dunne blocked from Andrew Surman after the midfielder had exchanged passes with Arter, having been sent clear by a beautiful MacDonald backheel.
But just when it looked as if Cherries were beginning to settle, Austin punished a defensive lapse to put QPR in front. He controlled with his chest and slotted home after Steve Cook had failed to deal with a looping cross from Andrew Johnson.
The match then took a controversial – and confusing – turn with all eyes on referee Woolmer. QPR’s players – and supporters – vociferously called for a penalty and red card when Elphick appeared to handle as he slid in to prevent Austin from reaching a long ball. With Austin trying to break clear and the ball perilously close to the 18-yard box, the hosts were left furious when Woolmer, following lengthy consultation with a linesman, opted to award a free-kick and no card.
A frustrated Barton thumped the set-piece into the defensive wall before earning himself a caution for his challenge on Simon Francis.
Despite the hosts dictating much of the play, Cherries still found openings and central defenders Cook and Elphick both headed over before Rob Green saved comfortably from Pitman after neat work from MacDonald and Surman had created the chance.
On the resumption, Pitman almost immediately missed a decent opportunity to restore parity. A fine Ritchie pass sent the striker clear but having brilliantly cut inside Dunne, he failed to hit the target with a curling left-footed effort.
But with the home crowd becoming frustrated, Cherries were unable to make the most of their bright spell and were made to pay the ultimate price when QPR struck to regain control. Hoilett was allowed time to take a touch and fire low across Camp after a right-wing cross had made its way to the far post.
Keeper Green was alert to push wide a low shot from Arter, Cherries' best performer on the night, before manager Howe replaced Pitman and MacDonald with Rantie and fit-again Lewis Grabban in a bid to revive Cherries’ fortunes.
Fraser was also introduced but QPR finished strongly and never looked in danger during the closing stages, with substitute Phillips storming through the Cherries defence to thump home from 18 yards to complete a chastening evening for the visitors.
QPR: (4-4-2) Green; Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto; Carroll, O’Neil (Traore, 81), Barton, Hoilett (Phillips, 74); Johnson (Jenas, 74), Austin.
Unused subs: Kranjcar, Henry, Young, Murphy (g/k).
Cherries: (4-1-4-1) Camp 5.5; Francis 5, Cook 5, Elphick 5, Daniels 5; MacDonald 5.5 (Grabban, 61); Ritchie 5.5 (Fraser, 68), Arter 6.5*, Surman 5, Pugh 6; Pitman 6 (Rantie, 61).
Unused subs: Harte, Thomas, O’Kane, Flahavan (g/k).
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)
Attendance: 16,331 (including 1,467 away supporters)
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