Norwich City v QPR - Sky Bet Championship - Tuesday, 15th August 2017 - Carrow Road
RANGERS picked up their first defeat of the season at Norwich City who, in turn, registered their opening victory of the new Sky Bet Championship campaign.
The R’s were far from disgraced at Carrow Road, though were undone by two goals after the half-time break.
First Portuguese international Nelson Oliveira broke the deadlock when he slotted home three minutes after the interval.
And the Canaries rubberstamped their win when Southampton loanee Harrison Reed’s outstanding 25-yard effort fizzed past a helpless Alex Smithies.
Following our impressive performance in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, QPR boss Ian Holloway named the same starting XI for the third league match in a row.
Interestingly, that was the first time that Rangers had done so since April 2011 – during our Championship-winning season under Neil Warnock.
On a sun-soaked evening in East Anglia, there was a good tempo about the Hoops’ play early on.
In the fourth minute, R’s full-back Jake Bidwell probably should have done better when he blasted over on the half-volley from 12 yards, after Pawel Wszolek’s right-flank cross wasn’t properly cleared.
And three minutes later, following Mass Luongo’s strong midfield challenge, Jamie Mackie saw his left-foot shot – from just inside the penalty area – repelled by on-loan Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
City's first attempt arrived in the 13th minute. Oliveira’s effort, from an acute angle, crashed into the side-netting.
The home side hadn’t threatened too much up to that point but, just three minutes later, the Canaries went close again.
This time, Rangers ‘keeper Smithies was forced into a fine reaction stop to thwart Marcel Franke, who was gifted a free header on six yards.
Norwich had now improved and in the 27th minute, Bidwell had to produce a goal-line clearance, following good wing play from Josh Murphy.
QPR were dealt a blow just short of the half-hour mark, with Wszolek forced off with what looked like a hamstring strain. So Kazenga LuaLua came on in his place.
The hosts kept up their pressure thereafter. In the 33rd minute, Bidwell was forced into a timely clearance when the ball pinballed around the R’s box while, three minutes later, skipper Nedum Onuoha bravely charged down James Maddison’s distance attempt.
But Rangers managed to remain level going into the interval, and even went close to scoring on the stroke of half-time. Conor Washington’s header, from Mackie’s centre, looped just over the crossbar.
However, the R’s would fall behind just three minutes after the break.
The visitors surrendered possession in their own half and, when Oliveira’s one-two with Mario Vrancic put him in the clear, the Benfica man calmly slotted past Smithies from 10 yards.
QPR spurned a good opportunity to level just two minutes later. Mackie cushioned Bidwell’s left-wing cross into the path of Luke Freeman on 12 yards, whose low drive was held well by Gunn.
At the other end, Norwich were almost in again in the 57th minute when Wes Hoolahan looked to race on to a through ball. But Smithies was off his line quickly to clear the danger.
The match was now fast becoming a more-open affair and, on the hour mark, LuaLua warmed the hands of Gunn with a shot from range. Washington’s follow-up attempt then trickled into the hands of the Norwich goalkeeper.
Rangers boss Holloway opted for a change after that. In the 64th minute, Joel Lynch was replaced by Darnell Furlong.
And seven minutes later, Matt Smith was introduced at the expense of Mackie.
Could the R’s find the equaliser they needed to keep up their unbeaten start?
In the 78th minute, sub LuaLua screwed wide from 25 yards, as QPR tried to step up their efforts to find one.
However, the game was put beyond Rangers’ reach eight minutes from the end of normal time – with Smithies left with little chance to prevent it from happening.
In truth, it was quite the strike by Reed, whose 25-yard blockbuster flew past the Rangers custodian and into the top right-hand corner.