PAWEL Wszolek’s first-half strike proved decisive for rampant Rangers, who rose to seventh in the Sky Bet Championship table with a third win in just six days.
Also collecting a seventh clean sheet in a run of 11 fixtures, this was arguably QPR’s finest defensive performance yet, following lengthy spells of Aston Villa pressure.
But it was an all-round outstanding team display from Steve McClaren’s in-form charges, who booked their fourth victory in five when Wzsolek slammed home via the underside of the crossbar in the 38th minute.
For the second consecutive game, R’s boss McClaren unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI for the visit of Dean Smith’s Villa.
So in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Rangers lined up as: Joe Lumley; Angel Rangel, Toni Leistner (captain), Jake Bidwell; Wszolek, Massimo Luongo, Geoff Cameron, Luke Freeman; Ebere Eze; Tomer Hemed.
When the game got underway, Villa had the better of the possession in the opening stages – and indeed for much of the first half.
The visitors so nearly took the lead in the third minute.
John McGinn rolled his marker midway into Rangers’ half before advancing into the penalty area. The summer signing from Hibernian then curled his subsequent effort just wide of the left-hand post.
Despite Villa's territorial dominance early on, the R’s did work a decent opportunity for themselves in the seventh minute.
A sweeping home move ended with Freeman forcing goalkeeper Orjan Nyland into a smart stop, diving low to his right to keep out the playmaker’s edge-of-the-box drive.
Rangers endured long spells without the ball in the first period – having to defend stoutly to remain level.
Villa threatened again in the 14th minute. After patient approach play, Jack Grealish went mightily close – though thankfully his 20-yard attempt darted inches past Lumley’s right-hand post.
Come the half-hour mark, the R’s were virtually camped in their own half – breaking sporadically under some relentless visiting pressure, including when Grealish struck the post with his distance free-kick.
However, all of Rangers’ dogged defensive work ultimately paid dividends seven minutes before the break.
Soon after being denied what video replays suggested was a clear penalty, that after being tugged to the ground by Neil Taylor in the box, Wszolek responded by firing QPR in front.
Cameron’s defence-splitting pass put the Pole in the clear, who then hammered his 20-yard effort against the underside of the bar and in.
All of a sudden, McClaren’s men had a lead to hang on to – and a fascinating second half laid in store.
Both sides went close just after half-time.
In the 48th minute, Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham somehow slid wide at close range following McGinn’s teasing set-piece from the left.
Then at the other end, in the 52nd minute, Eze’s blast from 20 yards was deflected just over the target.
Villa proceeded to crank up the pressure thereafter.
But the hosts continued to defend well, with Villa still unable to find a way through when the hour mark arrived.
McClaren opted to change the look of Rangers’ attack somewhat in the 62nd minute. Nahki Wells was brought on at the expense of Hemed.
And soon after Villa substitute Yannick Bolasie drew a strong one-handed save from Lumley in the 67th minute, Cameron – who appeared to pick up a knock – made way for Josh Scowen, too.
As time ticked on, the R’s appeared to be keen to run the clock down, breaking when the chances presented themselves.
Ultimately, they did it to a tee.
Despite further Villa pressure, and some four minutes added on at the death, Rangers limited their visitors to few further opportunities – even going close on two occasions through sub Scowen.
One-nil to the Super Hoops.