Ten-man Queens Park Rangers clinched promotion to the Premier League in dramatic fashion as Bobby Zamora’s stoppage-time strike secured a 1-0 win over Derby County in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday.
Harry Redknapp’s side were forced reduced to ten men for the final 30 minutes after Gary O’Neil’s was given a straight red card for pulling down Johnny Russell. But with former England goalkeeper Robert Green is outstanding form, QPR stunned Derby in the last minute when Zamora took advantage of a mistake by Richard Keogh to steal the victory.
Zamora’s goal was Rangers only shot on goal in the whole game, and it might have been the most valuable shot in football history, as promotion could be worth as much £200 million to QPR.
QPR’s triumph made them the first team to win promotion after finishing fourth in the second tier for 16 years. For Derby manager Steve McClaren, Wembley once again proved the most painful of venues.
In a scrappy first half, McClaren’s men appealed in vain for a penalty when teenage midfielder Will Hughes raced onto Jamie Ward’s pass, cleverly turned back in the other direction and took a tumble after Richard Dunne’s awkward challenge.
Robert Green came to QPR’s rescue in the 40th minute when he plunged low to his left to turn away an inswinging free-kick from Ward that almost crept in at the far post. Derby were on the front foot again after the break, but they almost fell behind to a sucker punch when Armand Traore’s cross picked out Charlie Austin and the forward stabbed just wide.
The momentum swung back in Derby’s favour moments later when O’Neil was sent off in the 60th minute. Hughes seized on a loose pass and picked out Johnny Russell, who flicked the ball through Dunne’s legs and appeared poised to bear down on goal until O’Neil’s desperate lunge sent him crashing to the turf and brought a red card from referee Lee Mason.
McClaren’s side tried to press home their numerical advantage and substitute Craig Bryson drew a smart save from Green before Martin’s near-post strike was repelled by the former England goalkeeper. Green was keeping Derby at bay almost single-handed and he made another good stop to claw away Simon Dawkins’ shot from point-blank range.
Derby were the division’s top scorers with 84 goals, but they just couldn’t find a way past a QPR defence superbly marshalled by Dunne. And with extra-time looming there was an astonishing sting in the tale.
QPR winger Junior Hoilett showed great determination to win the ball wide on the right, but his cross should have been cleared by Keogh. Instead the Derby defender diverted his clearance straight to Zamora, who could hardly believe his luck as he dispatched a fine first-time finish past Lee Grant to send QPR back to the big time.
Directions To Loftus Road
From North, M1 onto A406 West, then A40 at Hanger Lane to Central London. Turn off to White City, right into Wood Lane, then right into South Africa Road.
From East, A40 (M) Westway, then turn off to White City, left into Wood Lane, then right into South Africa Road.
From South, A3 follow signs for Hammersmith, then A219 to Shepherd’s Bush, then towards White City (Wood Lane) and left into South Africa Road.
From West, M4 to Chiswick, A315 and A402 to Shepherd’s Bush, then towards White City (Wood Lane) and left into South Africa Road.
The nearest tube station is White City on the Central Line, which is about a five-minute walk away.
Also nearby (a little further along Wood Lane opposite the BBC Television Centre) is Wood Lane Station, which is on the Hammersmith & City line. It is approximately a seven-minute walk to Loftus Road.
Alternatively, there are two other tube stations close by. Shepherd’s Bush Market on the Hammersmith & City line and Shepherd’s Bush on the Central Line.
The former is a ten-minute walk away from the ground, while Shepherd’s Bush takes about 15 minutes to walk from.
The nearest overground train station is Shepherd’s Bush, which is adjacent to the tube station. Trains from Watford Junction and Clapham Junction both stop here.
283 to Bloemfontein Road or the 72, 95 or 220 to White City Station.