QPR FanZoner Chris King hails Niko Kranjcar after the midfielder earned Queens Park Rangers a draw against Stoke City.
Only an exquisite free kick from Niko Kranjcar saved Queens Park Rangers from defeat against Stoke City as Mark Hughes returned to Loftus Road on Saturday.
Rangers had been outplayed by the visitors for vast swathes of the game, with Mauricio Isla at fault for both of the visitors’ goals either side of half-time.
Had goalscorer Peter Crouch and midfielder Steven N’Zonzi taken their chances, it would have been a very satisfying afternoon for Hughes and his charges.
Although widely seen as responsible for the Rs’ relegation in 2013, following a 16-game winless run that crippled the club’s efforts to stay in the Premier League, he escaped with only a smattering of boos.
However, Rangers can feel appropriately smug about getting one over on the former Chelsea striker, as Stoke reverted to aggressive, bullying type for the last few minutes.
In an effort to preserve a 2-1 lead that should have been far greater, first Ryan Shawcross and then Steve Sidwell hacked Kranjcar, who was easily QPR’s best player.
That he still had all his ligaments intact to fire past Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic says much of the improved fitness of a man much criticised for being out of shape last season.
Rs manager Harry Redknapp spoke of his admiration for the player he has now signed four times, particularly the pay cut he chose to take to return to the West London club.
Yet he will not be quite so impressed with Rio Ferdinand, lauded as the solution to Rangers’ defensive weaknesses just a few weeks ago, and now fast becoming a liability.
While Chilean international Isla, who is patently uncomfortable at right back and ought to be deployed elsewhere, twice lost the ball, Ferdinand twice lost his man.
The continued absence of Nedum Onuoha, whose presence alongside Steven Caulker would surely make the QPR defence far more solid, continues to baffle supporters.
Unfortunately, Redknapp’s stubbornness and refusal to admit his mistakes means that Ferdinand’s shortcomings will remain on show until they really start costing the Rs.
Some might also be wondering why Danny Simpson was so quickly shipped out to relegation rivals Leicester City, and an offer was accepted for Armand Traore.
Now, Traore is not and has never been a left back, but to sell both would have meant the uneasy Isla and creaking Clint Hill manning the flanks against the likes of Angel Di Maria and Eden Hazard.
Of course, fresh from his World Cup exploits, South Korean defender Yun Suk-young could take up the left-sided mantle, but for some reason he is chronically out of favour.
Unlike the dark days of Hughes, there is clearly far more to come from Rangers, especially those such as Jordon Mutch who are clearly playing within themselves.
Full debutant Eduardo Vargas looked sharp up front, Matt Phillips provided much of QPR’s attacking impetus after he came on and Kranjcar was back to his silkiest.
High-flying Southampton will provide a sterner test of the Rs’ defensive merits, before a tough trip to West Ham United and the visit of Liverpool to W12 in mid-October.
Despite his ultimate failure as Rangers boss, Hughes knew the value of home wins: five of them in the latter stages of the 2011/12 season kept the club in the Premier League.
Redknapp will no doubt be hoping for a similar turnaround in fortunes.
Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking
Originally published on TEAMtalk on Tuesday September 23 2014.