The Toffees recorded their fourth successive home victory to boost their European ambitions as well as all but condemning Harry Redknapp's QPR to Premier League relegationEverton’s quest for Champions League football continued as they strolled to a comfortable 2-0 victory over QPR on Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park.
Goals either side of half time from Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe ensured the Toffees’ late surge to finish in the much coveted top four positions remains a strong one with just seven games remaining.
While, Harry Redknapp’s QPR are now all but relegated as they suffered yet another defeat on the road, leaving them sevens point from safety.
The Toffees welcomed both Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar back into the starting line-up after the pair missed the last two games through suspension while Harry Redknapp opted to shuffle his pack after last week’s disappointing draw with relegation rivals Wigan. Ji-Sung Park replaced the suspended Bobby Zamora, while Esteban Granero and Nedum Onuoha were preferred to Stephane Mbia and Armand Traore.
And, it was the visitors who made the brighter start and went inches from taking an early lead. Some nice build-up play down the left including a brilliant solo run from Andros Townsend created space for Junior Hoilett but his curling effort went narrowly wide of Tim Howard’s upright.
However, it wasn’t long before David Moyes’ side found their feet and a driving run from right-back Seamus Coleman ended in a loud penalty appeal from the Goodison Park faithful after Clint Hill clumsily felled the Irish international in the box but referee Lee Mason waved away the claims.
Victor Anichebe was once again preferred to the out of form Nikica Jelavic up front but he couldn’t get on the end of Leighton Baines’ wicked cross from the left before his in-swinging corner forced Julio Cesar into action for the first time.
Despite looking shaky every time their Merseyside opponents sent a ball into their box, QPR were composed on the ball in the opening half and were only denied the opening goal by a superb save from Howard.
The re-called Ji-Sung Park controlled a long ball brilliantly on the edge of the box and his square ball from the by-line was met sweetly by the on-rushing Loic Remy but the American shot stopper reacted instinctively to push his goal bound effort to safety.
It was the wake-up call that the home side seemed to need after a rather lacklustre start to the game and a series of set-pieces lifted the decibel levels inside Goodison Park.
As the Toffees began to turn the screw, Darron Gibson’s miscued long range effort fell at the feet of Sylvain Distin, however, the defender inexplicably fired wide from just six yards.
As so often the case when you’re down at the bottom, the luck goes against you and Harry Redknapp’s side were once again left to rue their bad fortune as Everton took the lead with four minutes remaining in the first period despite the R’s having had the better of the play.
Kevin Mirallas’ initial shot was blocked into the path of Gibson on the right side of the area, and the midfielder’s powerful shot took a huge deflection of the Clint Hill to leave Cesar wrong-footed and helpless.
The former Inter Milan goalkeeper kept his side in the game moments after the interval as he tipped Anichebe’s close range effort onto the post after fine work from Mirallas down the left.
The QPR defence simply couldn’t deal with the firepower of the Everton set-piece and Cesar was once again forced to pull off a fine save to palm Distin’s header over the bar before Anichebe doubled their lead before the hour mark.
Baines’ deep corner was met by the head of Distin, and his goal bound effort was flicked past Cesar by the big Nigerian striker.
The left-back’s set-pieces were causing Christopher Samba and company all sorts of problems and just a couple of minutes later, Phil Jagielka nearly extended the lead but couldn’t fire home after a goalmouth scramble.
With the R’s Premier League status hanging by a thread, Redknapp introduced Adel Taarabt with half an hour remaining but at the other end, the very impressive Mirallas saw his volley from an impossible angle superbly kept out by Cesar.
As the minutes ticked down, QPR desperately tried to pull a goal back and spark a comeback but the visitors lacked quality in the final third to cause any real problems to a resolute looking home defence.
However, Howard was once again on hand to deny Rangers as Onuoha was left unmarked from Remy’s corner.
Everton are now just three points adrift of Chelsea in fourth but the Stamford Bridge club have played a game less. David Moyes’ side visit the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday in what will prove to be a crucial game in the race for Champions League football.