Brilliant Rob Green ends Latics unbeaten run with string of stunning saves.
England keeper Rob Green proved to be the immovable object as Latics were unable to convert a succession of chances against Play-Off rivals Queens Park Rangers, and it was old foe Yossi Benayoun’s solitary goal which finally ended Latics’ magnificent unbeaten run.
The Israel international had scored against Latics for both West Ham United and Liverpool in the past and he pounced in the first half to send Latics to a first defeat in ten games. Latics threw everything at their opponents for the following 75 minutes and but for Green would have romped away with all three points in a night of deep frustration at Loftus Road.
Rosler continued his policy of rotating the squad to cope with the demands of the match programme and made five changes going into the game; Stephen Crainey, Josh McEachran, Thomas Rogne, Nick Powell and Jack Collison - his first start - all came in with Jean Beausejour, Emmerson Boyce, Jordi Gomez, Martyn Waghorn and Marc Antoine Fortune making way. And there was a welcome first view of Gary Caldwell since last May, albeit only on the bench. James McArthur wore the captain’s armband for the night.
Latics went in at the break a goal down but it really was a mystery how that happened, such was their dominance, the home side scoring from their only really dangerous opening.
Latics’ first attempt came when McEachran floated a superb free-kick inches wide of Rob Green’s far post.
But it was Rangers who took the lead after Latics failed to clear a corner properly, Tom Carroll crossed from the left and it was centre half Clint Hill’s clever back heel that set up Yossi Benayoun to blast home from close range.
Latics continued to press and could have equalised when a neat move begun by a surging run down the middle by McEachran saw Powell wriggle past a cluster of markers before the ball fell for James Perch on the angle inside the box and Green made a good block. Powell then tried a rasping 25 yarder that Green palmed away to safety before James McClean on the break was set up by Powell and Green was once again Rangers’ saviour. The England keeper then palmed away McEachran’s corner before pulling off an instinctive one handed save from McClean.
With half an hour played, Latics must have wondwered how they were not in the lead, never mind level. But they kept pressing, Powell was sent clear but a last ditch interception from Nedum Onohua prevented him facing Green one on one. And Green made yet another save late on in the half at the feet of Collison, minutes before McClean, brilliantly set up by Powell, fired inches wide again.
With so much pressing, Latics were susceptible to Rangers’ counters and Ali Al Habsi made comfortable enough saves from Morrison and Niko Kranjcar.
The second half began in the same vein, McArthur this time failing to bundle home from close range with Green beaten for one. The agony continued as Green pulled off another superb stop from McClean, with not two minutes gone in the half. Ramis then placed his header against the bar following a sustained period of pressure and the frustration continued.
Rosler brought on Beausejour on for Crainey on the hour mark to try and preserve the momentum, which had just started turning Rangers’ way slightly, with Ramis timing an interception to perfection in denying Morrison, then Joey Barton tried from long-range.
Latics were beginning to tire and it was noticeable that despite still pressing, they were being pegged back more, with the home side growing in confidence. Benayoun had another effort over.
Rosler shuffled his pack again by taking off Rogne and bringing on Gomez on 72 minutes, switching to a back four, while his last throw of the dice came with ten minutes remaining, Maynard replacing McEachran.
Rangers could have doubled their lead when Morrison rattled the crossbar with a stunning 25 yard free-kick, Perch then clearing off the line from Zamora. A let off.
It was always going to be a dramatic last few minutes. Ramis and Benayoun clashed on the half-way line after the QPR man kicked the ball away and was booked for doing so.
He was then sent off for a second yellow card after pulling down Gomez on the edge of the box in injury time. Gomez himself took the kick but it was straight in the wall.
Latics continued to press and Rangers retreated deep into their own half for the final few seconds but Green pulled off another remarkable save from Maynard.