Arsenal 2-1 QPR
Rob Green stopped a penalty. Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud saw red for a head-butt – and Charlie Austin scored his 12th goal of the season.
But it still added up to a ninth defeat on the trot away from home, and there was just a hint this match was never going to matter as much the crucial clash with Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Rio Ferdinand got his first start in over two months by replacing the in-form Richard Dunne, and Armand Traore was preferred at left-back to Clint Hill.
But Rs keeper was an early hero.
Some you win, some you lose - ask Green.
The keeper guessed right when he went left to divert Alexis Sanchez’s spot-kick and was quick enough to palm the ball away and out of danger from the rebound.
Sanchez was a toe too quick for Traore whose injudicious lunge sent the Chilean sprawling.
Green was again the hero of the 3,000 visiting fans tucked away in one corner when he went full length to parry Olivier Giroud’s free-kick on 28 minutes.
There was nothing he could do about Arsenal’s opener.
Sanchez lost Traore on the back post, and the predator in red dived full length to head home a fine cross from Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal drove forward like the rain into QPR faces, but made no further headway going into the break.
The withering look on boss Arsene Wenger’s face was worth the admission money on its own as Giroud ran down the tunnel on 53 minutes, having just seen a red card as red as his face and shirt.
What was going through the Frenchman’s mind when he leapt up to stick his head into Nedum Onuoha’s face, Wenger by now might know.
Giroud was the meat in a gentle sandwich just before his shot careered back off the legs of Green and behind, but the striker decided to take it out on the Rangers defender.
But Sanchez was a power alone when his mazy 20-yard diagonal run went unchecked so he could pass to his right for Tomas Rosicky to crash home a low shot that took the slightest of deflections off Steven Caulker.
There was a spirited respite in the last 15 minutes from Hoops. And when Junior Hoilett’s quick feet did for Mathieu Debuchy in the box Austin smacked the spot-kick so hard, Szczesny did well to get out of the way.
Even so, nothing on the road has become a familiar tale in west London.
Rangers: Green; Isla, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Caulker, Traore (Hoilett 62); Mutch (Zamora 71), Henry (Fer 62), Kranjcar; Austin, Vargas; subs not used: Hill, Phillips, Wright-Phillips, McCarthyichardson, Stuart Lewis, Steven Craig, Fred Onyedinma, Aaron Holloway.