LOFTUS ROAD, LONDON—In tight games in the lower half of the Premier League table, one moment of quality—or one sparkling performance—can be enough to haul in three points.
Harry Redknapp's first victory of the 2014-15 season came courtesy of the latter, with Leroy Fer the most ominous and threatening player for QPR against Sunderland at Loftus Road on Saturday by a distance.
Sunderland enjoyed the better of the play and accumulated 61 per cent of possession, per WhoScored.com, but QPR were clinical; to the Black Cats' zero clear-cut chances, the Hoops managed four or five.
Fer was central to it all, playing in the No. 10 space in a 4-4-1-1 formation and driving at the heart of Sunderland's midfield. Once Lee Cattermole had been lured into a yellow card, the path was clear for the Dutchman to hare forward and create panic in front of the defence.
"He can play there [in the No. 10 role]," Redknapp enthused after the game. "He's a talented lad. He's fantastic. Sometimes he starts from deeper, but we can move him around."
"We've got options now," he affirmed.
Queens Park Rangers came out of the blocks fast and looked at ease in a more orthodox formation, moving the ball quickly out to the right and using Matt Phillips often. Fer quickly became the go-to target in possession, though, with his physicality and presence outside the box tough to deal with.
It's a role we're not accustomed to seeing him in—Norwich City and FC Twente, in addition to the Netherlands, used him starting deeper—but he looked at home in the No. 10 space and wore the No. 10 shirt to match.
Playing off Charlie Austin, he threatened with every touch in the final third. He poked several passes into the area to create chances, then cracked a 25-yard effort off the bar with Vito Mannone, like everyone else, no more than a spectator.
Sunderland took control of the game in possession shortly after a rumbustious opening 10 minutes from the home side but notably failed to create any chances to score.
Some nice runs from Steven Fletcher, in addition to nice build-up play from Connor Wickham and Adam Johnson, counted for little as Rob Green went largely unchallenged.
Emmanuele Giaccherini showed promise after coming in the second half, but Austin's winner in first-half stoppage time proved to be the difference in a game in which final-third quality cost a high premium.
Fer, of course, had a vital hand in the winner: Rising above Wes Brown at the near post for a corner, his knock-down fell kindly for Austin to rifle home inside the box.
A fitting contribution from the Dutchman, who looked monstrous and more the kind of Fer we're used to seeing throughout: physical, dominant, overbearing in the box.
At £8 million, he represents the quality addition every promoted club yearns for—the type who wins you games. Norwich fans saw his potential, but it never translated to the field; if Redknapp can keep him motivated and performing, he's a clear Player of the Season contender and a potential route to safety.
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