LONDON (AFP) – QPR narrowly avoided their fourth Premier League defeat of the season as a fine late equaliser from Croatia midfielder Niko Kranjcar rescued a 2-2 draw against Stoke on Saturday.
Harry Redknapp’s side have endured a difficult start on their return to the top-flight and they were in danger of another dispiriting loss after twice falling behind at Loftus Road.
Mame Biram Diouf opened the scoring for the visitors and, following Steven Caulker’s equaliser, it was Peter Crouch who restored Stoke’s lead against his former club.
But with just two minutes remaining, QPR’s late pressure was rewarded when former Tottenham midfielder Kranjcar scored his first goal since January.
Kranjcar’s equaliser left both QPR and Stoke with just one win each from their first five matches this season.
QPR fans were quick to jeer Stoke boss Mark Hughes, who had a short and underwhelming spell in charge of the west London club.
But they were silenced when Hughes’ side took the lead in the 11th minute.
With QPR’s defenders baffled by the nimble footwork of Victor Moses, the Nigerian winger looped a high cross to the far post.
Crouch rose highest, appearing to get away with climbing on the back of QPR’s Rio Ferdinand in the process, before nodding down for Diouf to alertly divert his header past Rob Green from close-range.
On-loan Chelsea star Moses was tormenting the QPR defence with his pace and power and he created a glorious chance for Crouch, who should have scored but instead flashed his shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
The hosts lost midfielder Joey Barton to an injury before half-time, but they shrugged off that setback to equalise in the 42nd minute.
With Begovic failing to claim a corner, Caulker was unchecked as he jumped to head goalwards at the far post.
Stoke still had a chance to get out of trouble but the calamitous defending continued as Crouch, ignoring the presence of team-mate Charlie Adam behind him on the goal-line, stretched awkwardly for the ball and diverted it into his own net.
Crouch made amends in emphatic fashion six minutes after half-time when QPR defender Mauricio Isla dwelt too long on the ball, allowing Moses to steal possession and sweep in a low cross which the former Liverpool striker fired past Green with a fine left-foot finish.
But Stoke dropped too deep after that in a bid to hold onto their lead and QPR’s pressure eventually produced an equaliser when Kranjcar curled a brilliant free-kick into the top corner in the 88th minute.