Niko Kranjcar bundled home a superb free-kick to secure a hard-earned point for Queens Park Rangers on Mark Hughes’ return to Loftus Road since November 2012 as Stoke City boss.
Mame Biram Diouf headed home from Peter Crouch’s assist in the 11th minute, but Kranjcar’s fellow summer signing Steven Caulker restored parity for the R’s three minutes to the break.
Victor Moses capped his outstanding performance with a well served assist for Crouch’s first goal since his match-winner against Newcastle in April.
With just 2 minutes of regulation time left to what would have been Stoke victory, Steve Sidwell’s ugly lunge attracted a dead ball situation just outside the area and the on loan Croatian bent it over the wall and goalkeeper into the top corner.
Memories of Mark Hughes’ “difficult” ten months in charge of QPR was immediately brought to life on the Welsh man’s way back into the ground with chorus of boos from the ‘Hoops’ fans. The manager made two changes following last week’s 1-0 defeat by Leicester, with Charlie Adam and Diouf preferred to Bojan and injured Jonathan Walters.
His successor at the London hosts made four changes from the side that were thrashed 4-0 at Manchester United a week ago. Joey Barton, Jordon Mutch, Eduardo Vargas and Armand Traore all started against Stoke.
Stoke City has had an impressive run away from home this season, culminating in the victory at champions Manchester City last month, while Harry Redknapp’s side have struggled to find their feet at home so far in the campaign.
Despite the decent start from QPR, Diouf headed in from few yards out after a good Moses delivery, headed on to the Senegalese striker by Crouch.
The ‘Potters’ continued to apply much pressure on the break withthe on-loan Chelsea winger on the prowl; quite a handful for Mauricio Isla. QPR’s little openings often times met resistance in the visitors’ final third.
Kranjcar tried a lovely shot from 30 yards out but went inches wide of the top corner. It was Caulker who restored parity in the 42nd minute, the defender running to the back stick to head a corner down into the net with a little help from Charlie Adam, who recklessly ruffled the ball into its target.
QPR lost Mutch early into the second-half, the midfielder paving way for ex-Stoke man Karl Henry.
Stoke restored their lead six minutes after restart, Moses the anchor. The Nigerian forward again got away from Isla down the left and then played a perfect low cross to Crouch who poked the ball inside the net from close range.
QPR needed a response to restore confidence among fans, but the chances not-so-surprisingly kept coming up for Stokes who should have finished off the contest through Erik Pieters and Steven N’Zonsi before the hour mark.
QPR however were not bereft of their fair share but Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson stood firm in Stoke’s defence. However, with just ten minutes left to the dead, Hughes’ men appeared to have showed too much nerves.
First, Shawcross slamming into the back of Kranjcar, only for Asmir Begovic’s outstretched left hand to push the resultant free-kick away following a little touch from Leroy Fer.
The Bosnian was unlucky after a second incident allowed Kranjcar to superbly bend it over the wall into the net.