Queens Park Rangers did themselves no favours against Fulham at Craven Cottage, repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot with an awful first-half performance and ending up with a 3-2 loss. The 'star' of the bizarre show was January signing Christophe Samba, who contrived to give away a penalty in the eighth minute.
Having dispossessed Dimitar Berbatov, the Congolese defender must have thought the Cottagers' attack was over. It wasn't. Ashkan Dejagah nicked the ball straight back, and Samba's clumsy lunge brought the youngster down. Berbatov stood over the spot and sent Julio Cesar the wrong way from twelve yards.
Samba was at fault for the second as well. After Clint Hill came within an inch or so of getting himself sent off with a two-footed lunge on Giorgos Karagounis, with Bryan Ruiz floating the resultant free kick just wide, his centre back partner again made a critical error, giving the ball to Berbatov and staring in mute horror as the centre forward finished past Cesar with the outside of his boot.
Things got even weirder in the 41st minute when a Hill own goal gave the hosts a 3-0 lead. Fulham centre half Brede Hangeland ambled up the pitch before setting John Arne Risse clear with a deft backheel, and the left back's cross cannoned off Hill's face and straight into the back of the net.
All that was left for the Cottagers to do was to close it out, right? That might have been what Martin Jol was thinking, but the game then took a sharp left turn. Karagounis, under pressure in midfield from Stephane Mbia, coughed up the ball, and Adel Taarabt let fly from range, the ball somehow sneaking past Mark Schwarzer and in to give QPR hope just before the halftime whistle.
After the break, they had more than hope. It was an all-out onslaught from the visitors, and within three minutes of the restart they had yet another foothold in the game -- or so it seemed. Taraabt went down under Karagounis' challenge, Jon Moss pointed to the spot... and Loic Remy's effort was kept out by Schwarzer, how went hard to his left for the stop.
And then, three minutes after missing the penalty, Remy scored. Mbia produced a wonderful through ball to catch out Hangeland, and the former Marseille man controlled brilliantly and slotted past Schwarzer to bring the deficit back to a solitary goal.
Things then settled into an off back-and-forth pattern as both sides looked for -- and came close to -- a second goal. Almost half an hour of that, which featured some dicey moments for both goalkeepers, Steve Sidwell decided he was bored of all that nonsense and went in late on Armand Traore. Was it a red? Yes, by definition, since Moss sent him off, but Craven Cottage was not particularly pleased.
Regardless, Fulham had to navigate the game's final spell with ten men. They managed pretty well, and were even denied a penalty when substitute Nedum Onouha dragged down Karagounis in injury time. There was no miracle QPR fightback, and the final whistle consigned them to a 3-2 defeat. Had they not been so intent on self-destruction in the first half, this all might have looked very different. The Championship looms.