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20 April 2013
• Loftus Road Stadium, London
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 17391
Queens Park Rangers
P. Crouch 42'
J. Walters 77'
That's it from me, Al Hain-Cole, on what has been a crucial day in the fight against the drop. Stoke have given themselves every chance of survival, while QPR look doomed.
This time last year Harry Redknapp looked primed to become the next England manager, but is now staring down the barrel of a season in the second tier. His reputation as 'Harry Houdini' is looking increasingly unjustified, as there seem to be no escape for the Hoops. The lack of fight from his team will be the hardest thing for the fans to swallow, rather than any 'lack of talent' that their boss accused them of recently.
The hosts needed to win this game to have any realistic chance of staying up, but looked lacklustre after a bright opening 10 minutes. The best they could muster was a series of disappointing long shots, and Stoke were very comfortable. Pulis can breath a sigh of relief, as his side make a big step towards safety.
And it's all over. Stoke end a run of six consecutive away defeats to pick up just their second three points on the road all season.
90' + 3'
The majority of these QPR players will probably have moved on should the inevitable happen and they drop into the Championship. You hate to say it, but they look like they are well aware of this fact, as they offer no fight in the closing stages.
90' + 1'
If there was ever a sting in this game, it has definitely been removed now, as we move towards full time.
A free-kick into the box misses everyone, but Begovic is alive to the danger and falls on the ball after it comes through a crowd of players.
And the long-suffering home fans are making their way to the exit now, no doubt contemplating life in the Championship on their way home.
Some nice link-up play between Hoilett and Remy ends disappointingly in a goal kick, after the ball comes back off the Canadian from Shawcross' challenge.
QPR look like they have accepted their fate, which is very worrying for Redknapp and the fans. Pulis' men are looking supremely comfortable.
Dean Whitehead's corner is headed past the post by Huth, who only saw the ball late as it sailed just over Crouch's head.
Yellow Card Steven N'Zonzi
Shaun Derry has a chance after a loose ball drops to him inside the penalty area. He is obviously wearing the same shooting boots as his team-mates though, and sends it high into the stand.
Penalty Goal Jonathan Walters
GOAL!!! Jonathan Walters keeps his cool and strikes the ball low and hard into the bottom corner after being asked to retake his initial penalty. The first was sent high into the roof of the net, but he had no trouble in hitting it home at the second time of asking.
Yellow Card Clint Hill
Penalty! It could be all over for the hosts, as Clint Hill pulls down Crouch in the area, just as the striker hopes to get on the end of Huth's header, which rebounded off the post.
Time is running out for QPR, who are showing few signs of getting back into this game.
Begovic comes out to collect Bosingwa's cross, with Bothroyd lurking.
Samba gets his head onto a free kick inside the box, but the cross is behind him and he is forced to stoop backwards. The resultant header is easily saved by Begovic.
Now it's Hoilett's turn to hit the ball high into the stands after a promising-looking break. The ball boys are certainly earning their keep today.
The game is playing nicely into Stoke's hands, who continue to soak up the pressure and break into the increasing amount of space opening up in behind as the hosts push up.
There are just 25 minutes remaining in the game, and QPR are in dire straits. Bothroyd is the latest to fire over the bar from distance.
Adam wastes a decent opportunity to double Stoke's lead, meeting a cross at the far post on his favoured left foot only to volley is horribly wide. You would expect better from the former Liverpool man.
Mackie is almost in on the left-hand side of the area, but is tackled - by Peter Crouch of all people - after trying to cut back on his right foot. He could have shot there...
Marc Wilson has only just come back from a hamstring injury, and seems to have returned too early. He pulls up after chasing Remy, and is replaced by Andy Wilkinson.
Charlie Adam seems to have seen everyone else smashing balls into the stand and decides he wants to join in on the fun. The Scot hits it high and wide from 30 yards out, disappointing a number of Stoke players who had taken up good positions in the box.
M'Bia blocks his own team-mate's shot on the line, as Samba strikes a loose ball at goal after it falls to him from a corner. The referee signals for offside, just to compound M'Bia's embarrassment.
It has not been Taarabt'sday, and the Morroccan has now gone off injured, to be replaced by Jay Bothroyd.
Good effort from Remy! The Frenchman wriggles past two defenders and hits a shot low and hard which is well saved by Begovic. Shawcross then clears behind for a corner.
Bosingwa dilly-dallies when presented with an opportunity to get a cross in. His eventual ball is deflected behind for a corner, but is comes to nothing.
QPR aren't looking much more inspired after the break. They need to inject some impetus if they are to get anything out of this game.
Early chance for Stoke, as Ryan Shawcross finds himself in acres of space on the left hand side of the area after a corner is half cleared. The big centre-back seems perplexed about what he is supposed to do in such a situation, however, and opts to delicately loft the ball 10 yards over the bar and into the crowd. Not the man Stoke would have wanted in that position, I think it's fair to say...
Scrap that. Jamie Mackie has come on in the place of the injured Townsend.
And we're back underway here, with no changes made for either side.
Peter Crouch has come back to haunt his old side, but having played 10 teams in his career, it is certainly not the first time that has happened for the former England man.
Defeat today could be the final nail in the coffin for QPR. What can they do to turn this around?
The Hoops have scored a higher percentage of their goals from outside the box than any other Premier League team, with just under 60%. Perhaps this success has got to their heads, as everyone seems to believe that they can win this game with a Goal of the Season contender. Stoke have scored the lowest propotion of long range strikes in the league, and their tactic of actually getting into the area before having a go has paid dividends so far.
There has not been much to choose between the sides here, but you can't say that Stoke don't deserve their lead. Pulis' men have created the better chances at Loftus Road, thanks largely to the energetic runs of Cameron Jerome in behind. Meanwhile, QPR have relied far too heavily on long shots, and look unimaginative in the final third.
And that is the last action of the opening 45, as Foy blows the whistle signalling half-time.
45' + 3'
Chris Foy actually resumes play with a drop ball, after seeming to give a free kick for a foul on Townsend. Strange decision, and the crowd aren't happy.
45' + 2'
Townsend wins a free kick outside the area, and seems to go down clutching his hamstring. Redknapp will not want to lose the Tottenham loanee, who has been one of their most threatening players in recent weeks.
At the other end, Christopher Samba meets a cross with a diving header, but his effort is wide of the far post.
That is Crouch's second goal in 23 games, and only Stoke's second first half goal of 2013.
Assist Cameron Jerome
Goal Peter Crouch
GOAL!!! Stoke have a precious lead after good play by Marc Wilson. The left-back wins the ball well on the half-way line and plays in Jerome down the left flank. He gets to the byline before pulling the ball back to Crouch, who slots it home from close range.
QPR are definitely implementing a shoot on sight policy here, and M'Bia is the latest one to fire a ball wide, this time from an ambitious distance of at least 35 yards out.
The pitch is not looking as carpet-like as we're used to at most Premier League grounds, and the bobbles are not making it easy for a short passing game. Tony Pulis will be particularly aggrieved...
Taarabt strikes the free-kick straight into the wall, who do their job and get it clear. He seemed to be hoping for them to jump, allowing the ball into the bottom of the net. No luck though, and it looks like a waste.
First piece of quick interplay from QPR, as Taarabt plays a one-two with Remy and is brought down right on the edge of the box by Glenn Whelan. Free kick given, but it was so nearly a penalty.
Hoilett has a go now, and you can guess the outcome. Begovic will be tired out from constantly running behind his goal to cellect off-target shots.
Andros Townsend is now in on the act, having a dig at goal from all of 35 yards. It rolls harmlessly wide though. Long shots seem to be the order of the day at Loftus Road, where neither side are offering much fluid passing the the final third.
QPR break from the resulting corner and win a free kick right on the edge of the box. Surprisingly it is Jose Bosingwa who steps up to take it rather than Taarabt, and his effort is not too difficult for Begovic, who dives to his right and turns it away.
Now Crouch is trying is luck from range. The rangy striker turns on the edge of the area and hits a bouncing ball on the half-volley with the outside of his boot. Green gets across to ball the ball away as it looks to be heading into the top corner. Fine effort.
Another shot from Remy! The Frenchman runs onto Taarabt's pass on the edge of the box and hits an instinctive drive which curls past the far post. He is starting to look threatening, and could well add to his impressive record of five goals in nine games for the Hoops today.
Jonathan Walters strikes a swerving shot from outside the area which causes Green a few problems. It seemed to be going straight at him but the movement of the ball deceived the keeper, who collects at the second attempt.
Another snapshot by Remy from a similar area, and again it is easily claimed by Begovic.
Remy has his first real sight of goal, bringing a looping ball brilliantly under his control before cutting back and firing a low shot from the edge of the box. It is easily claimed by Begovic though.
Yellow Card Charlie Adam
Jerome is in behind again, but his ball across the six yard box finds nobody. He might have shot there...
Jerome uses his pace to full effect by chasing down a long ball over the top and winning a throw in opposition territory. The frontman will have to work hard this afternoon in order to relieve the pressure on his team.
QPR appeal for handball after Loic Remy's header seems to hit Shotton's hand, but the referee has given it the other way after the ball bounces back and strikes the Frenchman's hand.
The Potters fling a long throw into the box and N'Zonzi flicks it on into a melee of players. It is cleared and Taarabt brings it forward before driving a shot into the crowd from about 30 yards. I make that his fourth long range effort already...
Free kick from QPR is nodded behind for a corner by Robert Huth. Taarabt exchanges passes with Junior Hoilett before teeing up Tal Ben Haim on the edge of the box, who completely mis-kicks his effort on goal. Stoke break quickly, but waste their chance and it goes behind for a goal kick.
And as I say that, the game calms down a bit. These sides have just one win in their last 10 between them, so confidence could be an issue. There has been no lack of ambition so far though.
Very open start here in the sunshine. We could be in for an entertaining afternoon.
Taarabt is brought down by N'Zonzi about 30 yards out and steps up to fire an impressive effort just past the post from the resulting free kick. Close, but Asmir Begovic didn't look too concerned.
Another chance for Jerome, whose glancing header from Ryan Shotton's cross is weak. The ball deflects behind for a corner, which Rob Green collects with ease.
Missed opportunity for Stoke, as Charlie Adam plays Cameron Jerome in behind. The striker has plenty of space but is reluctant to shoot on his unfavoured left foot, and cuts the ball back to Adam. The chance fizzles out after the defenders get back.
Adel Taarabt certainly doesn't lack confidence in his abilities, and he has wasted no time in having a shot on goal. It is well struck, but flies over the bar from all of 30 yards.
Referee Chris Foy has blown his whistle and we're underway in west London.
Redknapp questioned the talent of his players earlier on in the week. Can they prove him wrong?
The visitors are hoping to avoid equalling their record of seven concecutive league defeats, while time is running out for the hosts to kick-start a Great Escape. Three points today could make things very interesting at the bottom.
Stoke: Begovic, Huth, Whelan, Wilson, N’Zonzi, Adam, Shawcross, Walters, Crouch, Shotton, Jerome. Subs: Sorensen, Cameron, Jones, Owen, Whitehead, Kightly, Wilkinson.
Meanwhile, Marc Wilson returns for Stoke after passing a late fitness test, while Peter Crouch partners Cameron Jerome in attack.
QPR: Green, Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Ben Haim; Mbia, Derry, Hoilett, Taarabt, Townsend, Remy. Subs: Cesar, Diakite, Park, Mackie, Granero, Onuoha, Bothroyd
With Stoke's famously physical nature to contend with, Harry Redknapp has beefed up his team somewhat. Tal Ben Haim, Shaun Derry and Stephane M'Bia all come in for the hosts.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of QPR versus Stoke City at Loftus Road. I'm Al Hain-Cole and I'll be guiding you through what could turn out to be a crucial clash in the battle against relegation.
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