Queens Park Rangers V Rotherham United
RANGERS maintained their recent impressive run of results with a convincing 5-1 victory over Rotherham United at Loftus Road.
The Sky Bet Championship’s form team racked up their fifth win in seven fixtures – also a fourth on the spin at home – to brush aside the League One-bound Millers.
Matt Smith opened the scoring in just the fifth minute for the Super Hoops, with his well-taken goal handing QPR the lead.
Rotherham were briefly on terms when they equalised in the 13th minute, thanks to Joe Newell’s impressive range strike, but Luke Freeman’s 15th-minute reply put the R’s back on track for what would ultimately be a resounding triumph.
After the interval, Yeni Ngbakoto’s 49th-minute penalty made it 3-1, before Massimo Luongo registered his first-ever goal for the Hoops – heading home Ngbakoto’s cross on 57 minutes.
And the R's put the seal on victory in added time, as captain Nedum Onuoha touched home another Ngbakoto delivery.
QPR boss Ian Holloway made two changes to his team for the visit of Rotherham, following last weekend's 0-0 draw at play-off chasing Leeds United.
Both Ngbakoto and Idrissa Sylla were drafted into the home starting XI, at the expense of Pawel Wszolek and Conor Washington, who dropped to the bench.
In a 3-5-2 formation, the R’s lined up as: Alex Smithies; Onuoha, Grant Hall, Joel Lynch; Darnell Furlong, Ngbakoto, Luongo, Freeman, Jake Bidwell; Smith, Sylla.
Rangers wasted little time in opening the scoring in W12, taking the lead with the first real opportunity of the contest.
Sylla’s looped ball over the top found strike partner Smith who, having evaded a non-existent offside trap, set himself before firing home into the bottom right-hand corner, with a sweet left-footed strike from 18 yards.
An excellent start for the Hoops – but visitors Rotherham levelled matters courtesy of a fine distance effort eight minutes later.
The ball broke to Newell 25 yards from goal and what followed was a blockbuster attempt, as the midfield man arrowed an unstoppable effort past Smithies.
It earned a gracious round of applause from the home faithful, who certainly appreciated the strike from Newell.
Two chances, two goals – and Rangers made it three from three when they regained their lead only two minutes later.
Freeman capitalised on a defensive mix-up before skipping through and producing a deft finish past Millers goalkeeper Lewis Price, for his second goal in QPR colours.
That second goal appeared to settle Rangers. In the 24th minute, Sylla produced a sublime turn before firing a shot into the left stanchion behind the target, from 16-yards out.
Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the first period, though the R’s looked comfortable going into the half-time break.
It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest half of football, but more-important was the fact that it ended with Rangers holding a 2-1 lead.
Similar to the first half, QPR were quick out of the traps in the second and, in only the 49th minute, the Hoops extended their advantage from the penalty spot.
Aimen Belaid was penalised for a foul on Smith, and when Ngbakoto stepped up to take the resultant 12-yard kick, the Frenchman directed a crisp drive into the bottom right-hand corner.
Ngbakoto so nearly had his second of the afternoon four minutes later. His looping effort from 16 yards was acrobatically clawed over by Price.
But the R’s would eventually stretch their lead in the 57th minute.
A tidy passing move ended with Ngbakoto sending over an in-swinging left-flank centre that was met by Luongo, whose glancing header bounced into the ground before sailing past Price and into the back of the net.
Now in command, QPR made a double substitution in the 63rd minute.
Washington and Ravel Morrison were introduced, at the expense of Smith and Freeman, who were both given a standing ovation for their respective displays.
And Rangers used their final sub when Luongo – who was also clapped off – made way for Sean Goss 11 minutes later.
The R’s should have added a fifth goal in the 76th minute.
A Washington-led breakaway saw the forward skip past two challenges before striking the foot of the left-hand post from 18 yards, before Morrison’s follow-up attempt flashed only inches past the same post.
But goal number five would eventually arrive in second-half stoppage time.
Ngbakoto was again the architect, with his left-flank free-kick turned home by skipper Onuoha on four yards.
Five-one to the Super Hoops.