Harry Redknapp celebrates Charlie Austin double that changed his world
Queens Park Rangers 2 Aston Villa 0
In his composed, reassuring tone, Harry Redknapp put it best. It is hard to believe that it was merely a week ago when the Queens Park Rangers manager lambasted his team, crticising their naviety as they languished ruefully against Liverpool.
No such negativity here, however.
“There were a lot of good performances tonight,” Redknapp eulogised. “Suk-Young came in at left-back in the last couple of games and done fantastic. Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker tonight were up against Christian Beteke who is a fantastic striker. Rob Green, Mauricio Isla at right-back,” he continued.
Finally, Queens Park Rangers can relax and enjoy this uplift of belief after this stirring home victory. Loftus Road never stopped believing, never stopped backing the embattled Harry Redknapp and were rewarded here. Redknapp called for positivity and this will certainly evoke such an emotion. QPR deserved this, triumphing through Charlie Austin's accomplished double.
Austin scored both of QPR's goals, leading the South Africa Stand into a sing-song. His first was a swerving volley executed expertly and his second was a striker's finish, poaching on the hesitance of Aston Villa's defence. It was a fitting way to celebrate his 200th senior match in a career which has entailed spells across England's four divisions. Now he is in the big time, determined to shine and prove his worth.
QPR were much improved. Their defence seemed much more assured, exuding more composure than they did in last week's aberration against Liverpool. Leroy Fer, Sandro and Karl Henry formed the basis of this crucial victory, dictating the midfield and QPR's supremacy. Austin and Zamora harried Villa up front, showing signs of forging a cohesive strike partnership.
The outpour of relief at Loftus Road was palpable, aware of the immense significance of a victory here. Stamford Bridge, to face league leaders Chelsea, awaits for QPR with Premier League champions Manchester City at Loftus Road looming. QPR travel to SW6 next Saturday and host City on 8 November. Hardly appetising.
Redknapp emphasised the need for positivity in his programme notes and it arrived early on in the form of Sandro, the Brazilian midfielder declared sufficiently fit to start. His absence rued in QPR's defeat to Liverpool last week, the Brazilian's return was timely.
Villa asserted their intent instantly, moving the ball with purpose and creating chances as Lee Westwood directed a half-volley straight at Rob Green. Dunne blocked from Agbonlahor while Green thwarted Carlos Sanchez's swerving volley.
Yet QPR hit back, refusing to be daunted. Perhaps Redknapp's positivity beforehand was helped by the promising strike partnership being formed between Austin and Bobby Zamora, the knowledge that the duo may be key in QPR's fight against relegation.
Not a jump, not a celebratory punch but Redknapp must have been gratified, his tactics functioning to full effect. Austin gave QPR the lead, arriving onto Zamora's knock down and drilling home emphatically, a volley of pristine technique. A fitting way to herald the 200th match of his senior career.
It was a goal of stunning expertise. Zamora, holding off Ron Vlaar, received Dunne’s crossfield pass on his chest, by the time that Austin was already making headway, anticipating what would occur next and in-sync with his strike partner. He moved closer to Zamora on the outskirts of the penalty area, close enough to capitalise on his knockdown and drive towards goal with the outside of his right boot.
QPR endeavoured to accelerate their growing momentum, to exploit Villa's sudden exposure. South Korean left back Suk-Young pounced on Sanchez's hesitance and momentarily concerned Brad Guzan, forcing the American international into a routine save.
Sandro was asserting himself on the Villa midfield, beginning to dictate proceedings. The Brazilian swept a searching ball into Mauricio Isla and received the ball back from the Chilean, firing over the crossbar and into the QPR support.
Redknapp believes in Sandro and rates him very highly, as he introduced the 25 year-old to English football when he acquired him for Tottenham from his native Brazil and Internacional. A deadline day signing, Sandro evoked hope and belief. Redknapp hopes he can reproduce those emotions again.
“First time I got 90 minutes from Sandro tonight,” said Redknapp afterwards. “I bought him here, he’s a big player and I’ve just not been able to get him on the pitch. He made a difference tonight.”
Redknapp grew ever animated as half-time approached, a combination of hand gestures produced in communication to his players. What will, however, encourage Redknapp is Loftus Road's unerring support. He called for a "Loftus roar", the crowd howling in approval as Sandro, Leroy Fer and Karl Henry dispossessed Agbonlahor and then won a free-kick. d
Villa were probing, Cissokho knocking the ball down to Clark who dragged his effort wide.
QPR strived to control the game, strived to limit Villa's opportunities, who were resorting to ill means. Weimann, earning a deserved yellow card, when he poleaxed Suk-Young before Lowton lunged in on Henry. An intriguing duel was developing between Suk-Young and Weimann, the latter angered at a perceived foul from QPR's South Korean full-back.
QPR continued to threaten, continued to hint at a second goal as substitute Junior Hoilett teased Lowton and struck a curling lob against the crossbar. QPR, though, would finally extinguish the anxiety which lingered within Loftus Road, Austin sweeping in Vargas’s enticing cross. The Chilean sped seamlessly beyond Sanchez and his cross across goal shimmered with danger, sufficiently worrying Vlaar that Austin was able to reach the ball before Villa’s vaunted Dutch defender.
The home side would not let up, Fer threading through Vargas whose effort was blocked by Guzan.
QPR, finally, have lift off.