QUEENS Park Rangers booked their place in the third round of the Carabao Cup with a convincing 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers on what was an entertaining night at Loftus Road.
First-half goals from Bright Osayi-Samuel and Pawel Wszolek, as well as a Matt Smith header, gave Rangers a 3-0 lead, with Rovers grabbing a late consolation through Ed Upson.
Hoops boss Steve McClaren opted to make 11 changes from the starting XI that defeated Wigan on Saturday.
That meant the R’s lined up in a 4-4-2 formation for the first time this season, with Matt Ingram in goal and a flat back four of Osman Kakay, Grant Hall, Alex Baptiste and Niko Hamalainen.
The two central midfield players were Wszolek and Jordan Cousins, who were flanked on the wings by Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair. Up top was the little and large combination of Conor Washington and Smith.
Rangers got off to the perfect start when, in the third minute, Osayi-Samuel was fed the ball by Washington. The winger then danced into the box down the left-hand side before firing an accurate shot into the bottom corner.
QPR’s next effort came in the 11th minute. Baptiste played a lovely one-two with Osayi-Samuel and found himself in space outside of the box, but his curled shot sailed over the bar.
In the 16th minute, a misplaced pass nearly cost Rangers. Hall, making his return from injury, played a ball into midfield that was pounced upon by Stefan Payne, who drove forward but fired well over.
The R’s seemed to shift up a gear after that warning sign and soon doubled their lead.
Patient build-up between Osayi-Samuel and Hamalainen saw them work the ball nicely to Wszolek. The Pole had time to look up and drill a low shot into the bottom corner to give Rangers a 2-0 lead in the 18th minute.
It was a fine start to the game for Steve McClaren’s side and the Hoops began to play with more and more confidence.
Baptiste again went close with a header from a corner and then Smith and Washington combined well, with the latter unleashing a powerful drive from 20 yards that was well saved by Adam Smith. The R’s were now in complete control.
In the 30th minute, the Gas mustered their first shot on target. Sam Matthews found space on the edge of the box and forced Ingram into a good save. Then, from the resulting corner, Kyle Bennett cleverly turned away from Kakay and almost sent his curling effort into the far corner.
Two minutes later the impressive Osayi-Samuel showed excellent pace to skip past James Clarke and win QPR a free-kick in a dangerous area. Chair took the set-piece and forced Smith to parry it out to Washington, but his shot was unfortunately blocked on the line by strike partner Smith, who just couldn’t shift his body quick enough.
The R’s had certainly enjoyed the better of the half but Bristol Rovers did have their moments and again in the 35th minute worked a neat move down the right-hand side, with only the positioning of Hall blocking a certain shot on target.
Five minutes later Bennett, who was getting into difficult positions between the lines, tested the palms of Ingram on two separate occasions. The first was a well-hit drive from the edge of the box and the second was a curling effort to the R’s goalkeeper’s left.
Darrell Clarke’s side ended an entertaining half on the front foot but crucially QPR’s 2-0 lead remained intact.
In the 49th minute Rovers really should have halved the deficit. The ball was gifted to Bennett six-yards out and whilst the angle was a little tight, he should have scored. Luckily for the R’s, he put his effort wide of the far post.
Rovers’ bright end to the first half had certainly gave them confidence and they began the second period on top, attacking their impressive following situated in the upper tier of the School End. This time it was Matthews who went close from a narrow angle.
The Pirates then missed another golden opportunity in the 59th minute. A fantastic back-post cross from Ed Upson was put on the head of Alex Rodman, but he somehow fired over from less than six yards.
Steve McClaren made his first change of the match just short of the hour mark, taking off Chair and bringing on Paul Smyth.
And Bristol Rovers were made to rue their missed chances when Rangers sealed the game in the 63rd minute, with what was a fine team goal.
A period of possession led to Kakay finding some space down the right, and he whipped in a pinpoint cross that Smith delightfully headed home for his first goal of the season.
That allowed Steve McClaren to take off Hall, who got a valuable hour under his belt, and he was replaced by Charlie Owens for his senior R’s debut.
Shortly after, Rovers missed another chance when substitute Tom Broadbent headed over from close range, with Darrell Clarke visibly showing his frustration on the touchline at his team’s lack of cutting edge in front of goal.
With five minutes left to play Osayi-Samuel went off to a standing ovation after an excellent night’s work and another QPR player made his debut – this time 18-year-old Faysal Bettache.
Just before the end Rovers did manage to get on the scoresheet. Upson’s shot forced Ingram into a good save but the ball rebounded off the midfielder with the ball trickling past Ingram, who was already on the ground.