Brett Holman's early strike was cancelled out by a Jamie Mackie header in a spirited 1-1 draw at Loftus Road.
In a surprisingly entertaining contest between two of the league's poorer sides, all of the scoring was done before the 20th minute but plenty of drama was to come. Brett Holman's 8th minute half-volley put Villa ahead against the run of play, but the lead would last just 10 minutes thanks to a brilliantly placed header from Jamie Mackie. The sides traded spells of control for the rest of the first half, but the second half was almost all QPR. The home side threatened early and often after the break, but a tactical shift from Paul Lambert took much of the wind out of the home side's sails. The point moved Villa ahead of Sunderland, who take on Norwich City on Sunday.
QPR came out looking to force a very quick tempo, and with Villa unable to establish their preferred possession game the home side were dominant in the early stages. It was a bit of a shock then that Villa found themselves ahead thanks to Holman's strike, but QPR didn't seem bothered and continued to press, leading to Mackie's excellent equalizer. Villa bounced right back and appeared to take the lead thanks to Christian Benteke, but the big striker was correctly ruled to be just offside. Shaun Wright-Phillips was next to come agonizingly to putting his side ahead when he struck the inside of the post after finding himself 1-v-1 with Brad Guzan, but the ball ricocheted back into play rather than into the net.
There was a scary moment just after Wright-Phillips' miss when Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stephane Mbia collided, resulting in the QPR midfielder lying motionless and holding his face. Things looked even more serious after Mbia's neck was immobilized and the player was taken to the hospital, but early indications are that the injury is not as serious as it perhaps appeared. The lengthy delay clearly took a lot out of both sides, and neither side did much to threaten before the break.
The second half was much less of an even affair, with QPR taking control of the tempo and putting Villa under heavy pressure. With his side unable to keep possession and a heavily pressured back line looking ready to crack, Paul Lambert introduced three holding midfielders in Derrick Williams (making his senior debut,) Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi, and though it didn't lead to the most exhilarating football Aston Villa has ever played the desired result was achieved; much of the sting was taken out of QPR's attack and Villa were able to escape with a point.
As frustrating as it was to see Villa set up shop and close out the game with 20 minutes remaining against the worst team in the league, it was the right decision. This was a much better QPR side than they've been for the rest of the year, hungry for their first win and playing in front of a rowdy and spirited crowd. A point is a decent result from this game, and Villa's performance was much improved from Tuesday. But the fact remains, Villa have got to find a way to more consistently threaten the opposition's goal. Holman's strike was wonderful and Christian Benteke was his normal, beastly self in the first half, but QPR shifted their defensive focus after the break and effectively took the big man out of the game. Villa were largely hopeless when attacking in the second half-save a shot from El Ahmadi that went just wide-and that's been a consistent them this season. In possession, in defense, and in the build up this Villa team is actually pretty decent. But you've got to score to win games, and Villa's continuing lack of doing so is pretty clearly a major problem.