Aston Villa 1-3 QPR: Steve Bruce's side suffer blow to automatic promotion hopes
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 14/03/18 11:36am
QPR inflicted a shock 3-1 defeat on promotion hopefuls Aston Villa to record only their third away win of the season.
There was no fluke about Rangers' success, set up in the first half by Irishman Ryan Manning's first strike of the season and Jake Bidwell's first ever league goal.
Rangers substitute Luke Freeman notched their third goal in the 82nd minute before Villa defender James Chester replied in the 88th minute to score for the third successive game.
From Villa's point of view, it was a case of "after the Lord Mayor's show" following their impressive 4-1 home success over table-topping Wolves. The heavy defeat leaves them seven points behind second-placed Cardiff.
Rangers obviously enjoy playing in the Midlands as their only previous away wins were recorded at Birmingham and Burton, while they are also a team for the big occasion as proved by home wins over Wolves and Cardiff.
They, therefore, represented a tough test for Villa, despite having failed to win any of their previous eight games at Villa Park. Manager Steve Bruce had warned it could be a more difficult game against Rangers than Wolves, and so it proved.
Rangers, well served by the talented teenager Ebere Eze, refused to be overawed by their opposition and stormed into a 12th-minute lead.
There appeared little danger when Bidwell crossed from the left but Manning was on hand, beating the slow-moving John Terry to glide his header to the left of goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
Villa strived to get back into the game but Rangers were tenacious, highlighted by a no-nonsense performance from skipper Nedum Onuoha in the heart of defence.
Rangers struck for a second time in the 33rd minute to the utter dismay of Villa's fans. Bidwell gained possession from Pawel Wszolek on the edge of the area to hammer a left-footed shot low into the corner of the net and reward Rangers for their courage in playing an open attacking game.
It was simply not Villa's night, as highlighted two minutes before the break when Alex Smithies made a point-blank save from a Jack Grealish header.
Villa dominated long spells of the second half but on this occasion the inspiration of Robert Snodgrass and Grealish was clearly missing and even the introduction of two strikers, Scott Hogan and Keinan Davis, failed to ignite a recovery.
Poor defensive work allowed Freeman to notch Rangers' third goal with a low left-footed shot which easily beat Johnstone, before Chester's late consolation in the 88th minute.
Steve Bruce: "It was always my fear that this would happen after last Saturday's win over Wolves. I toyed and toyed about making changes. With hindsight I should have done. I blame myself because I always thought it would be difficult to get the bandwagon rolling again.
"I thought about making five or six changes but the way we won on Saturday weighed against me. My experience told me that the third game in a week was too much."
Ian Holloway: "Villa caught us cold the other week. They made us come up from London when they said the game was on. We had an eight-hour wait on the side of the motorway so you can say it was payback time for us! To be three up against Villa away from home after watching what they did to Wolves at the weekend was a bit of a shock.
"We only had four attacks in the first half and scored twice. We were clinical and the lads I put in did their job. I have a lot of belief in my players and they showed a massive bit of character after losing to Nottingham Forest at home. We have worked hard and the lads were magnificent. My back four were outstanding."