Kranjcar rescues QPR against Stoke

Croatian secures a scarcely deserved point with late free kick at Loftus Road

Queens Park Rangers’ Rio Ferdinand (left) is beaten to the ball by  Stoke City’s Peter Crouch  at Loftus Road. Photograph: Eddie Keogh / Reuters

Queens Park Rangers’ Rio Ferdinand (left) is beaten to the ball by Stoke City’s Peter Crouch at Loftus Road. Photograph: Eddie Keogh / Reuters

 

QPR 2 Stoke City 2

Midfielder Niko Kranjcar curled in a late free-kick to earn QPR a 2-2 draw against Stoke at Loftus Road. Stoke, managed by former QPR boss Mark Hughes, had taken the lead after 11 minutes through Mame Biram Diouf, only for Peter Crouch to stab a header from QPR defender Steven Caulker into his own net just before the break.

Crouch, who played at QPR as a youngster, looked to have secured victory when he swept home from close range after 51 minutes. However, with two minutes left, Croatian Kranjcar clipped in a fine 20-yard free-kick to earn Harry Redknapp’s men a share of the points in the Barclays Premier League tussle.

Hughes — sacked following a testing 10-month spell in November 2012, after which the west London club slipped to relegation amid financial turmoil — was expecting plenty of abuse from the home supporters, and it was only a few minutes before chants against the former QPR boss rang around Loftus Road.

The Welshman has, though, steadily rebuilt his reputation at Stoke, whom he guided to an impressive ninth-placed finish last season, and Hughes was pumping the air as Stoke went ahead.

The ball was played out to Victor Moses on the left, and his lofted cross was headed down by Crouch, who held off former England team-mate Rio Ferdinand, and Diouf nodded it past Robert Green.

The visitors remained a threat on the break, but Diouf chose the wrong option when shooting at the edge of the penalty area when he had men over on both sides.

Crouch was then unfortunate not to make it 2-0 after another quick break when played in by Moses at the edge of the penalty area. He took the ball in his stride before drilling a low effort just wide of Green’s right-hand post. At the other end, Kranjcar fired a 25-yard effort just over the angle of post and bar.

QPR captain Joey Barton, whose inclusion was one of four changes to the side beaten 4-0 at Manchester United, had to be replaced because of injury, with Matt Phillips coming on.

The home side were level just before the break. A corner from Jordon Mutch on the left floated over to Caulker at the back post. His header down into the crowded six-yard box was toe-poked up into the Stoke net by Crouch — with two other defenders ready to hack clear on the line.

QPR were forced into another change just after the restart when Mutch hobbled off, replaced by Karl Henry, and Stoke regained the lead in the 51st minute. Moses, on loan from Chelsea, caused problems down the left, squirming to the touchline before cutting the ball back into the six-yard box. Crouch, who had been linked with a summer move to QPR, dropped off Ferdinand, which gave him the time and space to fire a left-footed shot past Green for a first Premier League goal — at the right end — in 10 games.

Stoke should have sealed victory on the break when Charlie Adam picked out Steven Nzonzi arriving in the right side of the penalty area, but his sidefooted effort was wide.

QPR felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross appeared to pull Caulker’s shirt, but referee Martin Atkinson was not interested. With eight minutes left, there was a flashpoint as Shawcross clattered Kranjcar with a late sliding challenge, with Leroy Fer squaring up to the Stoke captain.

Eventually, the referee booked both players, which did not go down well with the frustrated home support.

Loftus Road, though, was soon rocking when, after being fouled by substitute Steve Sidwell, Kranjcar clipped a free-kick up over the wall into the top right corner, past the diving Asmir Begovic.

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