GOALS either side of half-time from Jordan Hugill and Ebere Eze gave the R’s a well-deserved victory on the opening weekend of the new Sky Bet Championship season.
Debutant Hugill got the ball rolling for Rangers after only eight minutes, finishing into an empty net after Bright Osayi-Samuel beat a wandering Jack Butland to the ball to tee up the West Ham loanee.
And it was 2-0 to the visitors shortly after the interval – an outstanding team move and subsequent solo effort ultimately seeing Eze putting the R’s in command in the 53rd minute.
Sam Clucas’ 78th-minute strike for Stoke City ensured a nail-biting ending.
But Rangers held their nerve thereafter to make it a winning start at the bet365 Stadium.
For his first competitive game in charge of the R’s, Mark Warburton handed three players their QPR league debuts from the off.
Yoann Barbet, Luke Amos and Hugill were all named in the Hoops’ starting XI, as were Angel Rangel and Geoff Cameron – re-signed by the club in pre-season.
Elsewhere, fellow summer captures Liam Kelly, Matt Smith, Marc Pugh and Jan Mlakar began from the bench, Dom Ball missed out through suspension, while the game came a bit too early for Todd Kane and Lee Wallace.
Rangers lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation: Joe Lumley; Rangel, Grant Hall (captain), Barbet, Ryan Manning; Cameron, Amos; Osayi-Samuel, Josh Scowen, Ebere Eze; Hugill.
Stoke started strongly, with Lumley forced into a goal-saving intervention to deny Sam Vokes as early as the fourth minute – when QPR gave the ball away in their own half.
But Rangers rode the initial storm to lead in the eighth minute.
Osayi-Samuel refused to give up on Cameron’s hopeful pass forward and, when the winger beat home goalkeeper Butland to the ball to send over a looping centre from the right-hand byline, Hugill pounced to slide into an unguarded net.
One-nil to the Super Hoops, then, and the R’s seemed to take confidence from their opening goal.
The next opportunity of the match didn’t arrive until the 17th minute. Clucas guided Nick Powell’s free-kick just past the foot of the left-hand post with his head for Stoke.
Rangers should have doubled their one-goal advantage in the 27th minute. Patient approach play resulted in Rangel sending over a cross from the right, but Scowen could only head agonisingly past the target.
Six minutes later, the hosts also went close – Powell shooting marginally wide on the half-volley from 20 yards.
The R’s still would have been pleased to go in at half-time with their single goal lead, though. In the 40th minute, Eze tested Butland with a snap-shot from range, but the ‘keeper produced a smart take.
Rangers were quick out of the traps at the beginning of the second period and, just a minute after the half-time break, Scowen so nearly scrambled home Osayi-Samuel’s low right-wing cross.
However, Warburton’s men would have a second goal come the 53rd minute – and what a goal it was!
It was a fine passing move and individual effort from Eze after that.
After the R's played out from the back through Lumley, Eze eventually picked up the ball just inside Stoke’s half, nonchalantly skipped his way past Nathan Collins and into the home penalty area, then confidently struck the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from 14 yards.
Cue fantastic scenes of celebration among QPR’s travelling army of around 1,500 supporters.
Stoke huffed and puffed in a bid to get back into the game.
In the 63rd minute, James McClean’s dangerous low cross somehow evaded everyone in the box. Then, four minutes later, Joe Allen’s improvised attempt trickled wide of the post.
Rangers handed a debut to Pugh shortly after that, with the former Bournemouth attacker taking the place of Amos. Osayi-Samuel then made way for Olamide Shodipo.
The R’s looked comfortable – but a Stoke goal 12 minutes from time ensured a grandstand finale.
Clucas eventually got on the end of a ball in from the right, before lashing home past Lumley from 10 yards.
Thankfully, QPR held firm to stave off a Stoke comeback - surviving five added minutes at the end to complete a 2-1 win.