Queens Park Rangers’ Bobby Zamora (C) vies for the ball with Everton’s James McCarthy (R) during the English Premier League football match at Loftus Road Stadium in London. (AFP/GLYN KIRK)
LONDON: Everton recovered from their Europa League embarrassment as Aaron Lennon’s strike secured a 2-1 win at QPR that pushed the hosts another step closer to Premier League relegation on Sunday (Mar 22).
Roberto Martinez’s side had become the final English side to crash out of European competition this season after a 5-2 thrashing by Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine on Thursday.
The dismal nature of that performance, coming during a disappointing league campaign, prompted some Toffees fans to turn on the Everton manager, who awoke to ‘Martinez out’ graffiti sprayed on a wall outside Goodison Park on Sunday morning
But this victory, secured by on-loan Tottenham winger Lennon after QPR’s Eduardo Vargas had cancelled out Seamus Coleman’s opener, moved Everton nine points clear of the bottom three and restored morale at Goodison.
QPR manager Chris Ramsey had claimed a heated half-time team-talk during last weekend’s defeat at Crystal Palace would prove the catalyst for improved performances in the final weeks of the season.
But his side look on course for relegation to the Championship as they sit second bottom, four points from safety with only eight games remaining. Everton were first to threaten when Leon Osman hooked narrowly over from a Leighton Baines corner.
Antolin Alcaraz had been replaced by John Stones after his woeful performance played a significant role in Everton’s European exit. And Stones played an important role in snuffing out a couple of promising moments from QPR striker Bobby Zamora in the early stages.
The visitors were beginning to hit their stride and went in front in the 18th minute when Coleman took Osman’s pass and side-footed a cool finish past Robert Green.
QPR would have been level before half-time if Zamora, with the goal at his mercy, had been able to keep his header on target from Charlie Austin’s cross.
Ramsey’s team thought they had equalised in the first minute of the second half after Junior Hoilett hit the bar from 25 metres and Zamora bundled in the rebound. However, their celebrations were curtailed by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Martinez’s team were back on the offensive as Darron Gibson smashed a fierce shot wide from Osman’s pass. But the hosts snatched an equaliser in the 65th minute when Chilean substitute Vargas fired into the roof of the net from close-range after Austin and Sandro unhinged the Everton defence.
To make matters worse for Martinez’s men, Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku limped off injured soon after. To Everton’s credit they kept plugging away and took the points in the 77th minute when Lennon lashed in after a poor QPR clearance. Adel Taarabt almost salvaged a point for QPR in stoppage-time, but the Moroccan playmaker’s effort hit the woodwork.