RANGERS returned to winning ways in quite remarkable fashion – scoring six goals for the first time since 1999 to brutally see off Cardiff City at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Nahki Wells hit a hat-trick, Bright Osayi-Samuel two goals and Ebere Eze another – QPR netting three times in either half to kick off 2020 in emphatic style.
Cardiff were actually in good form before this Sky Bet Championship fixture, but found themselves behind early on after Wells’ ninth-minute header. Osayi-Samuel’s impressive double before the break (minutes 27 and 41) gave the R’s an almighty foothold.
Rangers hardly rested on their laurels after the interval.
Wells hit his second goal – QPR’s fourth – in the 48th minute, before Eze got in on the act to register an R’s fifth.
Then Wells rounded off Rangers’ scoring on 64 minutes – ensuring he’d be taking home the match ball on a truly-memorable New Year’s Day for the Super Hoops.
Will Vaulks netted the definition of a consolation goal for the visitors in second-half stoppage time.
QPR boss Warburton made two changes to his starting XI in total following the 2-1 home defeat to Hull City on Sunday.
Angel Rangel missed out altogether, while Ryan Manning dropped down to the substitutes’ bench.
Geoff Cameron returned to the side at right-back, with Lee Wallace also coming in to fulfil the other full-back position.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Rangers lined up as: Joe Lumley; Cameron, Grant Hall (captain), Toni Leistner, Wallace; Dom Ball, Luke Amos; Osayi-Samuel, Ilias Chair, Eze; Wells.
Cardiff came into this fixture with just one defeat in nine and on the back of an impressive victory at sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday last time out.
Rangers, on the other hand, were winless in their previous four Championship fixtures – but sought to put that right by opening the scoring early on.
After Eze saw a fourth-minute effort deflect wide, that following some patient home approach play, the R’s playmaker turned provider five minutes later as Warburton’s men hit the front.
From just inside the visiting half, Eze’s stunning ball over the top of the Cardiff defence picked out Wells in the box, whose perfectly-placed header looped past goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and in.
Rangers on top, then, and in the 17th minute Leistner threatened an R’s second when his fierce half-volley from 20 yards was repelled by Etheridge.
Cardiff showed signs of improvement after going behind, and went mightily close to levelling matters when Aden Flint’s header – following a corner – crashed back off the left-hand upright.
City striker Robert Glatzel also went close with a 23rd-minute snap-shot, before Rangers so nearly made it 2-0 once more.
A three-man R’s move culminated in Osayi-Samuel’s low right-wing centre picking out an unmarked Eze in the penalty area, but he could only blast over.
Rangers would double their lead in the 27th minute, though.
Wells, in confident mood following his opening goal, freed Osayi-Samuel in the box with a lovely ball over the top of Cardiff’s back four. Then, with the angle forever narrowing, the in-form winger thundered the ball past Etheridge from close range to put the Hoops in the driving seat.
Now firmly in control of proceedings with that second goal, Rangers added a third shortly before half-time – in the 41st minute – to leave Cardiff with a mountain to climb in the closing period.
In a move that went from back to front, Lumley’s quick thinking and wonderfully-executed long pass sent Osayi-Samuel racing away into the visiting half.
From thereon in, the winger displayed great confidence and skill in equal measure, bamboozling two Cardiff defenders before striding into the box and showing composure to slide the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
In all, a fine opening 45 or so minutes for the R’s – who failed to relent once the second half got underway.
Indeed, just three minutes into the closing period, QPR hit a fourth.
Osayi-Samuel’s hanging cross from the right saw Eze scuff his volleyed attempt into the ground, with the ball subsequently skipping up off the turf for Wells to head in from close range.
Rangers were rampant and a jubilant W12 crowd were able to toast a fifth goal just short of the hour mark.
Incisive work from Chair on the right-hand edge of Cardiff’s box eventually saw the Moroccan evade his marker before sending over a low centre - gratefully slid home at the far post by Eze for his tenth strike of the season.
The was a clinical home performance which got even better with goal number six in the 64th minute.
Wells grabbed his hat-trick and, in truth, it was largely owing to a large helping hand from the visitors.
Flint’s misjudged back-pass put the Bermudan international in the clear, who rounded Etheridge before shooting home for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Rangers almost had a seventh in the 77th minute, with captain Hall seeing his header cleared off the goal-line following a home corner.
QPR played the final 11 minutes with 10 men, with Leistner going off injured after the R’s had already used up all three of their allotted substitutes.
Even so, Rangers still looked set to keep a clean sheet until injury time, when Cardiff’s Vaulks struck from range with the ultimate consolation effort.
That couldn’t take the shine off a sensational R’s win, though, the Super Hoops 6-1 victors in the end.