Queens Park Rangers spurned another chance to improve their chances of survival in the Premier League after a gripping 3-2 loss at Fulham on Monday left them seven points from safety with seven games to play.
Fulham exploited generous defending by their west London rivals to establish a 3-0 lead inside 41 minutes at Craven Cottage through a Dimitar Berbatov brace and a Clint Hill own-goal.
Adel Taarabt pulled one back in the first half and Loic Remy added a second, moments after seeing a penalty saved, before Fulham lost Steve Sidwell to a red card for a late foul on Armand Traore.
However, QPR could not find an equalizer and remain second from bottom of the table ahead of a crucial game at home against fourth-bottom Wigan Athletic on Sunday.
“It was a disastrous first half and it cost us,” QPR manager Harry Redknapp said.
“We gave away the worst goals I’ve ever seen in my life. It was an absolute disaster, but then we got a goal back, came out in the second half and absolutely murdered them. We are not giving up. We have to beat Wigan on Sunday — that is where we are at now,” he said.
QPR’s pressing need for goals was evident in Redknapp’s decision to hand erratic Moroccan playmaker Taarabt his first league start since Feb. 23.
Fulham were unchanged from the team that won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur in their last outing and although they quickly hit their stride, they were abetted by some appalling defending by the visitors.
Christopher Samba gifted Fulham an eighth-minute penalty by upending Ashkan Dejagah and Berbatov tucked away the spot-kick with customary sangfroid.
It was the fourth consecutive league game in which the Bulgarian had scored and in the 22nd minute he added a second.
Again, Samba was at fault, dawdling in possession and allowing Berbatov to nip in and prod the ball beneath the exposed Julio Cesar.
Cesar had to prevent Jose Bosingwa putting through his own goal in the 35th minute after an exquisite touch and cross from Berbatov, but Hill did not have such a fortunate escape six minutes later.
Brede Hangeland found fellow Norwegian John Arne Riise with a cute back-heel and the leftback’s drilled cross flicked off the QPR centerback and beat Cesar to put the hosts 3-0 up.
It had been an abject first half for QPR, but Taarabt gave them hope on the stroke of halftime when he found the bottom-left corner from long range after Giorgos Karagounis gave the ball away.
Taarabt then won a penalty in the 49th minute, only for Mark Schwarzer to brilliantly save Remy’s effort, but the Frenchman redeemed himself two minutes later.
Collecting a pass from former Olympique de Marseille colleague Stephane Mbia, Remy span away from Philippe Senderos and then rifled home a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
Referee Lee Probert brandished a straight red card after Sidwell lunged at Traore in the 79th minute, but Martin Jol’s side held on for a win that left them nine points clear of the bottom three in 10th place.
“It’s a bit disappointing to be 3-0 up and then make it difficult for yourselves,” the Fulham manager told Sky Sports.
“I thought the sending-off was a bit harsh. He tried to pull his leg out, but he was red-carded and it was difficult for us,” he said.
There’s a few clubs above us, like Swansea, and we’ve got a game in hand, so hopefully we can go a bit higher in the table,” he added.