07/02/2015: QPR 0-1 Saints
Sadio Mane kept Saints' Champions League hopes very much alive with a vital last minute winner at Loftus Road. Ronald Koeman's side played reasonably well throughout, but were left frustrated in front of goal until the very end.
Saints had the better of the first quarter. The visitors edged the possession stakes, and were involved in some good build up play. Graziano Pelle had the first chance, shooting low straight at Rob Green from distance. Eljero Elia then saw his audacious lob go wide from Sadio Mane's neat through ball.
The game was stopped on 18 when Matt Targett went down after being caught by Matt Phillips' arm. Targett lay unconscious on the ground for several minutes before being stretchered off. Thankfully no serious damage was done, with Koeman explaining in his post-match interview that "everything was under control" and that the player "will have a headache, but nothing more". Maya Yoshida moved to left-back with Florin Gardos coming on for Targett to fill in in the middle.
Not long after the game was re-started Mane cut inside and shot low at Green. At the other end Phillips shot wide. Saints' approach play was decent, but QPR defended in numbers and the visiting attackers were crowded out in the box. Jose Fonte hit the bar from a James Ward-Prowse corner. Mane broke through a couple of times, but was thwarted at the last minute. Deep into first half stoppage time Ward-Prowse curled a free-kick just past the post.
Saints did most of the early pressing at the start of the second half. It was Rangers who had the first major opportunity though, with Armand Traore nearly sneaking in at the back post. On 61 Mane shot well over with a volley from the right. The same player had another effort blocked minutes later. Saints looked more assured on the ball than their opponents, who only half threatened with a few deep crosses.
Rangers enjoyed their best spell of the game during the last 20. Fraser Forster made a fine stop from Charlie Austin on 73. Saints were still plugging away on the counter. Mauro Zarate went close on 87. As stoppage time arrived it looked as if the game was heading for a stalemate. Then a quick pass from Yoshida found Mane on the edge of the area. The Senegalese striker manoeuvred himself away from Onuoha before firing into the roof of the net. The drama wasn't over, with Rangers having a goal ruled out for a foul on Forster.
Some claimed Saints were lucky to come away with all three points, but on the balance of play it was probably a fair result. Saints were far from awful. There were plenty of frustrating moments in the final third, but also some excellent incisive one-touch play. The win is all that really matters though. Saints can't afford too many more slip ups with the way the table is shaping up. The points are welcome, no matter how they come.
Forster: 7. Made one superb save at a vital stage in the match. Otherwise didn't have too much to do
Clyne: 7. Some good runs down the right
Fonte: 7. Caused trouble at a few attacking set pieces. Rarely troubled at the back
Yoshida: 8. Assured on the ball at the back. Looked more than capable on the left, showing his attacking prowess with a fine assist
Targett: 5. Didn't have a great start to the game before his injury
Wanyama: 7. Slotted back in seamlessly. Started several attacks from deep
Ward-Prowse: 7. Some decent delivery as you would expect
Davis: 7. Bright in spells, releasing the ball quickly
Elia: 7. Some tricky wing play, particularly in the first half
Mane: 7. Covered plenty of ground. Made some good runs and displayed some clever footwork before the all-important finish
Pelle: 6. Involved in a few chances, but overall fairly quiet
Gardos: 7. Took a few minutes to get into the game, but overall did pretty well. Some intelligent defending
Schneiderlin: 6. Just kind of there, feeling his way back into things
Tadic: Involved in the build up to the goal
Saints - Mane (90)
Attendance - 18,082 (1,772 Saints fans)
Referee - Roger East
QPR: Green, Onuoha, Dunne (Vargas 83), Caulker, Hill, Fer, Barton, Traore (Isla 73), Phillips, Taarabt (Zarate 63), Austin
Subs not used: McCarthy, Henry, Kranjcar, Zamora
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett (Gardos 26), Wanyama (Schneiderlin 61), S Davis, Ward-Prowse, Elia (Tadic 80), Mane, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Flannigan, Reed, Seager