Taarabt pen 35, Stewart 50
MOROCCAN midfielder Adel Taarabt produced a master-class in creative play to consign Argyle to a painful 2-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers.
The man on loan from Tottenham showed Premier League quality in running a one-sided first-half for the home sideand was rewarded with a cooly-converted penalty on 35 minutes.
Argyle improved marginally after the break but Damion Stewart's header moments into the second period made it a mountain the Greens never looked likely to climb.
Argyle boss Paul Mariner made three changes from the 1-1 weekend draw with Preston North End. Joe Mason dropped down to the bench to allow Rory Fallon to take his place alongside Jamie Mackie in attack after the Kiwi was used as a substitute on Saturday because of jet-lag from a midweek international trip to California.
Behind them, Carl Fletcher moved back into midfield after playing as an emergency defender against the Lilywhites, bumping Luke Summerfield down to the bench. Chris Barker shuffled across from full-back to take Fletcher's vacated spot in the centre and Gary Sawyer was promoted to left-back.
The other change saw Alan Judge make a timely return from a tight hamstring to replace Chris Clark, who limped out of the Preston match with a similar complaint. Mariner was also stripped of the attacking attributes of Craig Noone because of an ankle knock picked up on Saturday, which meant a return to bench-duty for fit-again David McNamee.
QPR manager Neil Warnock celebrated his debut victory in charge of the R's by naming the same team that secured a fabulous 3-1 win over promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
There was, however, one significant change on the home bench where QPR's talisman Lee Cook returned from injury to replace Angelo Balanta. One of Cook's companions among the replacements was former Pilgrim Ákos Buzsáky.
After conceding the first goal in the previous seven games, a bright start was essential for the Greens. QPR, unfortunately, repelled any plans for a determined opening by controlling possession in the first few minutes.
The first position of panic created by the home team involved the dancing feet of Hogan Ephraim and his chipped cross from the left only narrowly evaded the near-post run of Hungarian striker Tamas Priskin.
Despite QPR's confident start, Argyle looked a far sturdier side than the one that produced such a flimsy performance in the opening 30 minutes against Preston, although a slip by Karl Duguid allowed Taarabt to dig out a hopeful shot on 12 minutes that David Stockdale gobbled up happily.
Taarabt was again involved six minutes later with a terrific threaded pass through the Argyle defence for the pace of Jay Simpson, who steered his shot back across Stockdale but also, mercifully, beyond the far post.
It was clear that the Pilgrim midfield of Fletcher and Damien Johnson would need to get closer to Taarabt, who was given to license to roam freely by the dual screen Mikele Leigertwood and Alejandro Faurlin provided for the R's defence.
At the other end, the Greens created their first meaningful opportunity of a frustrating opening quarter when Judge swung in a perfect free-kick for the head of the unmarked Kári Árnason, but the Icelandic international seemed to lose his bearings and glanced his backward header well over Carl Ikeme's crossbar.
Árnason's misdirection suffered major retribution within 10 minutes. A drifting cross from the right by Matthew Connolly was aimed for Priskin in the penalty area and Argyle's Iceman was adjudged to have pulled down the Magyar.
First appearances suggested referee Paul Tierney had given the home team a slightly soft opportunity to take the lead and Árnason's bemused reaction to the decision confirmed the general Pilgrim disappointment with the award.
Taarabt swiftly banished any Argyle complaints from his mind to stroke a simple penalty into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Stockdale the wrong way in the process.
If the penalty was harsh, then the scoreline was completely fair. Argyle looked stout in defence but an inability to get moving in the attacking third was allowing Rangers to keep sweeping forward with Taarabt, yet again, dinking over an excellent cross that proved a fraction too far for the run of Simpson.
The half-time whistle was greeted by satisfied applause from the home support but Mariner and his coaching staff marched straight down the tunnel for another rousing team-talk, as the Pilgrims, once again, sought to salvage something from a game where they had conceded the first goal.
Mariner resisted the temptation to make any changes to personnel at half-time, although the option of Mason, Yala Bolasie, Kenny Cooper or Bradley Wright-Phillips would surely be taken if the restart failed to prompt a change in the pattern of proceedings.
There was, however, a reshuffle in the shape of Argyle's midfield, with a diamond formation deployed to combat the influence of Taarabt.
Unfortunately, the Morrocan could not be stopped from set-pieces, and a delightful swinging free-kick from the left found the back-post run of Stewart. The Jamaican defender had all the space in the world to cushion an easy header past the stranded Stockdale for a two-goal Rangers lead.
Within two minutes, the R's won another dangerous free-kick and Taarabt planted a low cross into the box for Priskin, who blasted his first-time effort wide of Stockdale's post.
Mariner had clearly seen enough and he hauled off Fallon for Mason and Judge, who had arguably been the best player in a Green shirt, for the blistering pace of Bolasie.
Despite the changes, the blue and white wave could not be stopped, and Taarabt teased the retreating Argyle defence with a twisting run before unleashing a fearsome drive that flew inches over. The Pilgrims had only one option left: all-out attack, but Taarabt was the perfect man to exploit the space left in midfield.
QPR's next foray forward actually came from a bumbling run by Leigertwood and his eventual shot smacked into the shins of Simpson, and beyond Stockdale's right-hand post.
Argyle will point to the fussy and inconsistent display from Mr Tierney in their post-match analysis, but it was impossible to deny that the better side on the night were winning the game and the Greens, for the first time, were looking a slightly dispirited unit.
The withdrawal of the superb Taarabt on 73 minutes would have briefly cheered Mariner's troops, although the Moroccan's replacement, a certain Mr Buzsáky, can play a bit as well.
Argyle's disastrous evening almost took a final turn for the worst when Árnason and Stockdale both went for the same ball. The inevitable collision gave Simpson a stab at an open goal but the difficult angle saved Green blushes.
It was the final act of a disappointing night. Every season throws up the occasional poor performances that warrant defeat. The problem for Argyle this season has been the good displays have generally yielded one point instead of the deserved three.
Mariner now has the difficult challenge of rousing his troops for the Saturday trip to Coventry City but, knowing his boundless enthusiasm and optimism, Argyle will bounce back at the Ricoh.
QPR (4-2-3-1): 22 Carl Ikeme; 16 Matthew Connolly, 3 Damion Stewart, 13 Kaspars Gorkss, 20 Matthew Hill; 6 Mikele Leigertwood, 18 Alejandro Faurlin; 36 Tamas Priskin, 39 Adel Taarabt (10 Ákos Buzsáky 73), 25 Hogan Ephraim (17 Lee Cook 78); 23 Jay Simpson (8 Rowan Vine 85). Substitutes (not used): 2 Peter Ramage, 24 Radek Cerny (gk), 29 Gary Borrowdale, 33 Antonio German.
Booked: Hill 61, Connolly 76
Argyle (4-4-2): 21 David Stockdale; 23 Richard Eckersley, 11 Kári Árnason, 15 Chris Barker, 18 Gary Sawyer; 2 Karl Duguid, 4 Carl Fletcher, 7 Damien Johnson, 25 Alan Judge (36 Yannick Bolasie 55); 8 Jamie Mackie, 14 Rory Fallon (32 Joe Mason 55). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 10 Bradley Wright-Phillips, 16 David McNamee, 20 Luke Summerfield, 33 Kenny Cooper.
Booked: Duguid 49, Eckersley 59, Barker 64
Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).
Attendance: 12,013 (863 away).