Berbatov bags brace as Hoops' hopes fade
QPR's chances of beating the drop look bleaker than ever after defensive mistakes cost them dear in a 3-2 west London derby defeat at Fulham.
Last season QPR suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat at Craven Cottage and it looked like there could be a similar scoreline after a dominant first-half display by the hosts. Christopher Samba gifted the Cottagers their first two goals, bringing down Ashkan Dejagah to allow Dimitar Berbatov to net an eighth-minute penalty before Berbatov added a second.
Chants of "going down" echoed around Craven Cottage when Clint Hill put a John Arne Riise cross into his goal, but QPR rallied as Adel Taarabt and Loic Remy netted - moments after seeing a penalty saved - before the home side were reduced to 10 men following Steve Sidwell's late sending off. But Fulham held on, condemning QPR to a potentially season-defining defeat.
The hosts started brightest and, after early warning shots from Riise and Damien Duff, Samba thought he had thwarted Berbatov with a decent tackle inside the box. However, the Rs defender had not accounted for Dejagah latching onto the loose ball and his late challenge on the winger saw referee Lee Probert point to the spot.
Berbatov stepped up to take the resulting penalty and nonchalantly sent Julio Cesar the wrong way and - after 22 minutes - Samba was caught out by Damien Duff, whose hassling saw the ball end up at Berbatov's feet, allowing him to burst into the box before finishing with aplomb.
After Urby Emanuelson replaced the injured Dejagah, things got worse for QPR. Brede Hangeland directed a deft backheel into the path of Riise, whose driven cross was deflected home by Hill.
However, QPR gave themselves a glimmer of hope late in the first half when Taarabt ran at the hosts' backline before firing low past Mark Schwarzer.
Remy saw a shot deflect just wide 10 seconds into the second half and had a chance from the penalty spot in the 49th minute. Probert pointed to the spot after Giorgos Karagounis was fooled by the quick feet of Taarabt, but Remy's penalty was saved to his left by Schwarzer.
The France international, though, soon made amends, losing marker Philippe Senderos and continuing forward before thrashing home off the underside of the bar.
Fulham were on the ropes and their hopes of hanging on were made even tougher when Sidwell received a straight red card for bringing down Armand Traore.