WHAT. A. SPECTACLE!
Stefan Johansen’s 91st-minute strike earned a point for QPR, who came from two goals down to take a share of the spoils and keep up our unbeaten start to the season in dramatic fashion.
Rangers – who dominated the play in the first half – took an early lead through Dom Ball (11 minutes), only for John Swift to level matters for Reading in the 35th minute.
The real drama came after half-time, though.
The home side raced into an unlikely 3-1 lead as Swift completed his hat-trick with further goals in minutes 64 and 77.
But the Super Hoops battled back to claim a point.
Andre Gray, on debut, reduced the deficit in the 79th minute, ahead of Johansen’s late goal making it 3-3 in front of an ecstatic away end at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Following the two-week international break, R’s boss Mark Warburton named an unchanged starting XI after Rangers beat Coventry City 2-0 at home a fortnight ago.
There was no place among the 18 for striker Lyndon Dykes, however – rested following his goalscoring exploits for Scotland during the break.
New signing Gray took Dykes’ place among the substitutes.
Rangers, in a 5-3-2 formation, lined up as: Seny Dieng; Moses Odubajo, Rob Dickie, Jordy de Wijs, Yoann Barbet, Sam McCallum; Ball, Johansen; Ilias Chair, Chris Willock; Charlie Austin.
The R’s were backed by a sold-out away end at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. Hoops fans certainly made themselves heard throughout – not least when they watched their team first take to the field.
In terms of action, there wasn’t too much to report on inside the opening 10 minutes.
Rangers were ahead come the 11th, though.
Johansen’s ball into the six-yard box was headed down by de Wijs into the path of Ball, whose subsequent effort deflected in off Michael Morrison before nestling into the back of the net.
With the R’s now in front, hosts Reading created their first chance of note on 17 minutes. George Puscas got in behind the visiting backline, but blazed over from a tight angle.
Rangers largely dominated proceedings in the first half and, on 29 minutes, threatened once more when Johansen’s deep centre was headed over by de Wijs at the back post.
However, disappointingly, Reading would level matters 10 minutes before half-time. Alen Halilovic’s ball over the top was taken on by Swift, who subsequently kept his cool to beat Dieng from inside the penalty area.
From a defensive point of view, that was certainly avoidable but Rangers did their best to try and restore their lead ahead of the interval – finishing the half strongly.
In the 43rd minute, Johansen’s edge-of-the-box blast deflected behind.
Then, two minutes later, Chair played in Willock down the right, whose subsequent low cross was just taken off the toes of a waiting Austin in the box.
Into the second half, and there were efforts at both ends early on. Halilovic curled marginally wide for the hosts, before Willock did the same for Rangers shortly after.
Chances continued to flow. In the 51st minute, Chair and Willock combined well to play in Austin, who couldn’t quite finish off the move.
Then, after Dickie made a vital interception to keep out Reading at the other end three minutes later, another Austin strong attempt – in the 57th minute – was beaten away by Rafael Cabral.
But it was Reading who would strike again come the 64th minute – with Swift doubling both his and the home side’s tally for the afternoon. The midfielder’s 18-yard effort beat the outstretched glove of Dieng before finding the bottom left-hand corner.
Somehow, Rangers were now behind – and things got even worse come the 77th minute, as Swift completed his hat-trick.
Somehow finding himself in possession down the left, skipper Liam Moore’s ball across was prodded home by Swift.
Rangers could have folded – but instead brought themselves back within a goal only two minutes later.
The introductions of both debutant Gray and Albert Adomah proved to be important ones in the end, with the two combining for Gray to touch home from close range.
Cue momentum shift.
Rangers admittedly rode their luck when Puscas somehow headed wide 10 minutes from time.
However, the R’s would add a third and equalising goal as late as the 91st minute to spark wild scenes of celebration among the travelling support.
Willock just kept the ball in, pulling the ball back for Barbet to shoot at Cabral. Johansen then reacted to the loose ball first, drilling home low from inside the area.
Five minutes were added on at the death and there was so nearly an R’s fourth on 94 minutes, as the outstanding Willock flashed an effort just inches over the crossbar.
There would be no further goalscoring action, though, as R’s players and fans alike celebrated what felt like an important point together.