QPR v Leeds United
IT WAS opening-weekend delight for Rangers, who showed no signs of first-day nerves to complete a 3-0 Loftus Road victory over Leeds United.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team got off to the best-possible start, taking the lead after just four minutes.
Captain Nedum Onuoha nodded home following a goalmouth scramble. That ensued when Leeds failed to deal with Tjaronn Chery’s outswinging corner.
QPR subsequently struck the post twice before half-time, but did eventually grab a second goal in the closing period – from the penalty spot – to all but settle matters.
Summer recruit Jordan Cousins was hauled down inside the area, before Chery stepped up to thunder home from 12 yards.
Seb Polter added gloss to the scoreline in injury time. He showed excellent determination prior to powering an effort past former R’s goalkeeper Rob Green, on the latter’s return to Rangers.
Boss Hasselbaink handed two men their R’s league debuts.
Jake Bidwell – a summer capture from Brentford – started at left-back, while academy product Olamide Shodipo began in a three-pronged attacking midfield behind striker Polter. QPR lined up in their now-accustomed 4-2-3-1 formation.
Cousins and Joel Lynch, who moved from Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town respectively over the summer, were named on the bench.
New signing Yeni Ngbakoto, who joined from Metz on Saturday, was unavailable for selection owing to the timing of his transfer.
For Garry Monk’s Leeds, ex-R’s custodian Green was one of five players making their United league debuts. Kemar Roofe – among the top scorers in League Two last term with Oxford United – was another new starter for the visitors.
Rangers looked bright and energetic from the kick-off, buoyed by a packed Loftus Road, and scored in only the fourth minute.
Chery’s left-flank corner caused havoc in the visiting ranks – before Onuoha eventually capitalised to touch the ball home with his head at close range.
What a start.
A crazy opening that did calm down a little thereafter, though QPR still had the better of the possession early on.
Leeds’ first attempt came in the eighth minute, but it did little to trouble Alex Smithies. Roofe headed wide from Gaetano Berardi’s right-wing centre.
It took until the 20th minute for the next chance to fall for Rangers. Shopido’s cross was palmed clear by Green – but only as far as Onuoha on the edge of the box, who lashed over.
Seven minutes later, Polter used all his strength to bring the ball down for Ben Gladwin, who all shot past the target.
Only the foot of the right-hand post denied QPR a second goal in the 29th minute.
In truth, it would have been extremely fortunate. Leeds’ Ronaldo Viera saw his low clearance cannon back off Chery, before the ball crashed against the woodwork and wide.
Nine minutes before half-time, that same post came to United’s rescue once more.
Rangers broke through Onuoha and when he slipped in Polter, the German raced into the area, cut back on to his left foot, then saw his subsequent effort strike the post.
Two minutes short of the break, Leeds’ Stuart Dallas was gifted an opportunity on the right-hand side of the box - that after QPR failed to deal with a ball in from the left - but he shot handsomely over.
The visitors went close shortly after the re-start. Matt Grimes – on loan from Premier League outfit Swansea City – curled a left-footed free-kick just past the upright.
Leeds, second best to Rangers before half-time, were much better at the start of the closing half.
In the 56th minute, Hoops manager Hasselbaink made a change.
Gladwin – who picked up a knock – was replaced, with Cousins brought on for his competitive R’s debut.
Monk’s Leeds side continued to press thereafter, forcing a small sequence of corners, though it must be said that the first 20 minutes of the second half were devoid of clear-cut chances.
QPR made a second substitution in the 68th minute. Shodipo made way for Nasser El Khayati, with the former given a healthy round of applause upon coming off.
A minute later, Chery forced Green into a smart, low save, after El Khayati’s initial effort was blocked.
The R’s got better as the half progressed. Shortly after his last, Green fashioned an even-better stop to keep out El Khayati, as the Dutchman displayed fine skill before shooting.
But Rangers would subsequently double their lead from the penalty spot.
Cousins was felled by Leeds’ Viera as he attempted to latch on to a Steven Caulker pass. And Chery confidently stepped up to fire home past Green emphatically.
United tried to reduce the deficit thereafter, with Marcus Antonsson - put through on goal - spurning a glorious opportunity nine minutes from time.
But they couldn’t find a way past a defiant R’s rearguard. In fact, QPR added a third goal in added time to complete a comprehensive win.
Polter chased down a seemingly-lost cause before nipping in around the Leeds defence and blasting past Green.
Three-nil to the Super Hoops.