An untypically flat performance from the home side showed no initial signs of struggle, as Mauricio Pochettino’s men attacked with plenty of endeavour in the opening exchanges, but they were undone after quarter of an hour. R’s forward Loic Remy broke free to power the visitors in front with a firm low strike which Danny Fox almost kept out on the line, but his last ditch effort saw the ball rocket into the roof of the net.
However, the tide appeared to turn back in Saints’ favour just before the break as they equalised in stoppage time at the end of the first half when Gaston Ramirez nipped in on a rebound from Jay Rodriguez’s shot, to calmly lift the ball over the keeper to level up at half time.
Saints were largely untroubled in the second period, and looked more likely to score, but chances came and went with Fonte and Lambert each going close, before the visitors struck out of the blue for a second time when Park-Ji-Sung’s cross was turned in by Jay Bothroyd inside the six yard box.
QPR ‘keeper Julio Cesar was forced off with an injury, but his replacement Rob Green was the hero for the visitors as he kept out a terrific header from Yoshida in the 86th minute to deny the hosts a second leveller.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Fox (Shaw 56), Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Lallana (Rodriguez 43), Ramirez (Ward-Prowse 74), Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, S. Davis, Richardson, Guly.
QPR: Cesar (Green 74), Traore, Samba, Hill, Mbia, Bosingwa, Park, Granero (Jenas 53), Hoilett, Remy, Bothroyd (Fabio 89). Subs (not used): Taarabt, Mackie, Onuoha, Townsend.
Referee: Howard Webb
Attendance: 31,728 (including 3,194 away)
Southampton welcomed Jose Fonte, Jason Puncheon, Danny Fox and Gaston Ramirez back into the starting line-up, whilst Guly also returning to the squad and was named amongst the substitutes.
The hosts got the game underway with Gaston Ramirez and Morgan Schneiderlin kicking-off into the bright sunshine beaming down on them as they attacked the Chapel end for the opening 45 minutes.
A positive start from Mauricio Pochettino’s men saw Adam Lallana win an early corner in the first attack of the game down the left side.
The initial threats from Saints came down that flank as Danny Fox added weight to the attack with a couple of early runs. The latter of which almost saw Rickie Lambert benefit as Chris Samba cleared the ball towards the striker’s path, only for the visitors to tidy up quickly before he could get his shot off.
The first real effort on goal came in the eighth minute. Strong work from Ramirez through the centre saw the Uruguayan play the ball into Jack Cork, whose long range strike was drilled wide of the left post covered by Julio Cesar.
Lallana followed suit with an effort that flew over, but how Saints didn’t find themselves in front in the 12th minute is anyone’s guess. A Ramirez cross to the far post was nodded back across goal by Lambert, but both Lallana and Puncheon were each within inches of tapping home inside the six yard box before the ball was cleared.
But after all the early promise, with 15 minutes on the watch, Rangers stunned the home side with a quick break that resulted in Loic REMY getting into the area on the right side and smashing into the net past the on rushing Artur Boruc. Despite Fox’s efforts to clear from the line, the ball still just crept in off the underside of the crossbar.
Unsurprisingly, the R’s were buoyed by their goal, and began to play in a more relaxed style as Esteban Granero and Jose Bosingwa ventured forward to support the attack, though they failed to follow up with any further efforts as they sought to protect their slender lead.
Saints were fighting a congested midfield, as they were forced to move the ball across the flanks to get around the bodies swarmed through the centre of the pitch.
The hosts were also now up against a side in no rush to take set-pieces, which added to the frustrations around a lacklustre start to the contest.
There was pause in play following a clash of heads between Lallana and QPR defender Clint Hill which left the former requiring a lengthy bit of treatment before he returned to the action relatively unharmed.
Two minutes before the interval, Lallana eventually succumbed to a knock as he left the field walking gingerly, and was replaced by Jay Rodriguez, with Saints desperate to create something before the end of the half.
They went close when Ramirez’s shot was deflected out for a corner, but despite the hosts’ best efforts to bombard the penalty area, Chris Samba continued to thwart those chances. That was, until stoppage time in the dying embers of the half.
The fresh legs of Rodriguez took aim from distance, and a horrendous spill of the shot from Julio Cesar presented Gaston RAMIREZ with the chance to casually lob the ball over the ‘keeper to level the scores in dramatic fashion before the whistle blew.
There was still time for Schneiderlin to make a crucial block in the other box though, as Stephane Mbia almost turned the game back in the visitors’ favour, but the teams went in with nothing to separate them at the break.
Half Time: Saints 1-1 QPR
Pochettino’s men settled quickly at the start of the second period, with Fox linking up with a neat one-two on the edge of the area before sliding a shot wide of the near post.
That was followed up by Fonte’s header from a Lambert cross back into the area, but the nod towards goal was comfortable enough for Cesar to hold.
The Portuguese centre back did, however, go even closer when he struck a fierce rising shot from distance which flew narrowly past the near post.
On 53 QPR made their first change as Jermaine Jenas replaced Granero with the visitors looking to shore up in midfield, having lost their way at the start of the new half.
Saints maintained their dominance and went close again when Fox and Rodriguez combined well on the left side of the area, and the latter struck a terrific effort towards the top right corner, only for his shot to land on top of the net.
The hosts were forced into a change of their own for a second time on 56 as Fox departed with a knock, and Luke Shaw was introduced to the action.
The onus remained on Pochettino’s men to push for a second goal as the visitors invited the pressure onto themselves, relying on central defensive duo Samba and Hill to mop up the crosses into their territory.
Saints sensed they were getting closer and on 70, Rodriguez again embarrassed Cesar, who dropped his long range strike, but fortunately for the ‘keeper, Lambert couldn’t get to the follow up first.
In the 74th minute QPR had to replace Cesar, who was struggling with his kicking, and on in his place came Rob Green.
At the same time, Saints switched goal scorer Ramirez for James Ward-Prowse.
Incredibly, Rangers struck for the second time to make it 2-1 on 77 minutes. Park-ji-Sung got the better of Yoshida to cross into the six yard box, and Jay BOTHROYD applied the close range finish to give the struggling visitors an unexpected foothold in the contest.
Saints picked themselves up and went back on the offensive in a bid to level up again.
Rodriguez headed wide from Clyne’s cross, with a tame effort, but the best chance arrived on 86 minutes, when the hosts were denied a certain equaliser by a terrific one handed save from substitute ‘keeper Green.
The England stopper sprawled himself out to block Maya Yoshida’s goalbound header from a Ward-Prowse corner, which proved to be the last of the opportunities for the home side.
Brazilian full-back Fabio replaced goal scorer Bothroyd, before six additional minutes were added on for stoppage time.
However, no further efforts would come, as the Premier League strugglers recorded a win over Saints, a result which leaves Pochettino’s team 16th in the table.
Full-Time: Saints 1-2 QPR