GOALS from Aramide Oteh and Jake Bidwell saw Rangers beat Championship leaders Leeds United 2-1 to reach the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Remarkably, this was QPR’s first third-round victory without the need for a replay since 1996, as Steve McClaren’s side deservedly overcame Marcelo Bielsa’s high-flying Whites.
Oteh’s second Super Hoops goal in just a handful of first-team appearances arrived from the penalty spot on 23 minutes, after Bidwell was fouled in the box. Leeds replied only two minutes later, with Aapo Halme finishing from close range.
But it was to be Rangers’ day, as Bidwell headed home a Luke Freeman corner on 75 minutes to decide the tie and stretch our unbeaten run to six matches.
Following our 2-2 Championship draw at Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, R’s boss McClaren made five changes to his team for this round-three clash in W12.
Matt Ingram, Osman Kakay, Grant Hall, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Oteh were all drafted into Rangers’ starting XI, with QPR deploying their usual 4-4-1-1 formation from the start.
The hosts lined up as: Ingram; Kakay, Darnell Furlong, Hall, Bidwell; Freeman, Josh Scowen, Jordan Cousins, Osayi-Samuel; Ebere Eze; Oteh.
This tie had plenty of tempo about it early on.
The R’s survived a scare with less than a minute played. Tyler Roberts’ low, range shot struck both posts, before McClaren’s men eventually managed to clear the danger.
At the other end, Rangers also went close with their maiden effort of the contest. Oteh’s fierce edge-of-the-box attempt forced Leeds goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell into a smart reaction save, diving low to tip the ball around his right-hand post.
The Hoops continued to threaten thereafter.
From the subsequent corner, Bidwell’s header – from Freeman’s left-wing corner – was touched over by Peacock-Farrell. Then in the 13th minute, Osayi-Samuel muscled past his marker before seeing his close-range effort blocked by a defiant visiting custodian.
But Peacock-Farrell’s resistance would be broken – Rangers edging in front from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute.
Bidwell was felled by Leif Davis in the area and, when Oteh stepped up to assume responsibility from the spot, the young forward confidently hammered home his penalty to hand the home side the initiative.
QPR’s lead lasted only two minutes, however, as United hit back from a free-kick.
Lewis Baker’s distance strike was spilled by Ingram, before Halme followed up to slam the visitors level from point-blank range.
Disappointment for R’s ‘keeper Matt – and Leeds almost grabbed a quick-fire second goal in the 28th minute. Ezgjan Alioski crossed from the left, then Roberts’ six-yard shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Chances continued to flow for the remainder of the first half.
Five minutes before the break, Kakay’s 18-yard blast was taken well by Peacock-Farrell, before Alioski’s attempt from a similar distance at the other end flew just inches past the target.
Meanwhile, in the 43rd minute, Eze drove past the upright from 20 yards. And only seconds before the half-time whistle was sounded, Oteh fired marginally over following an R’s counter attack.
An entertaining opening half, then, and it was Rangers who started the brighter of the two teams after the interval.
However, in contrast to the first period, opportunities were much more scarce, with very little to note up to the hour mark.
The tie kicked into life in the 66th minute.
Cousins almost ended a lung-busting run by shooting into the top left-hand corner, but Leeds ‘keeper Peacock-Farrell produced a fine flying save to divert the ball to safety via the post.
A minute later, Ingram was forced into an important intervention to thwart United’s Baker, who raced clean through on goal.
Play was now beginning to switch from end to end and, in the 69th minute, Furlong headed onto the roof of the net for the R’s, following a quickly-taken corner. Seconds later, Rangers’ Ingram tipped over Alioski’s stinging cross-shot.
In the 74th minute, Osayi-Samuel’s box shot was turned around the post by the impressive Peacock-Farrell, who also intervened to save from the head of Bidwell once Freeman swung the resultant corner in.
Rangers would eventually add a second goal to win through to round four, though – Bidwell eventually getting on the scoresheet after the next corner was taken.
Freeman was again the provider, crossing from the left for the defender to rise highest and nod into the opposite corner in the 75th minute.
With QPR now back in front, Ingram fashioned an excellent sprawling stop three minutes later to keep out Jack Harrison from a Leeds set-piece.
Then up the other end, in the 86th minute, Freeman’s 20-yard free-kick crashed back off the upright.
But there were to be no further goals - Rangers seeing out four minutes of stoppage time at the end to put themselves in the hat for the next round of the competition.
Two-one to the Super Hoops.
Highlights: QPR 2, Leeds United 1
WATCH highlights from QPR's 2-1 FA Cup Third Round win against Leeds United.