Cardiff City 2 Queens Park Rangers 1: Holloway’s men leave Wales empty-handed

Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett (right) scores their first goal after Queens Park Rangers' goalkeeper

Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett (right) scores their first goal after Queens Park Rangers' goalkeeper Alex Smithies sees an attempted clearance rebound off him (pic Adam Davy/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Queens Park Rangers fell to their second defeat of the Championship season against leaders Cardiff in Wales.

Cardiff City's Kenneth Zohore (centre) is fouled by Queens Park Rangers' Nedum Onuoha during their S

Cardiff City's Kenneth Zohore (centre) is fouled by Queens Park Rangers' Nedum Onuoha during their Sky Bet Championship match (pic Adam Davy/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Matt Smith gave the visitors an early lead, but a fortuitious equaliser for Junior Hoilett was followed by a Sol Bamba header on the stroke of half time, which gave the Bluebirds the points.

Ian Holloway made nine changes to his starting line-up, from Tuesday’s Carabao Cup defeat against Brentford, and Steven Caulker headed an early corner clear for the visitors against his former club.

Excellent defending by Darnell Furlong denied Hoilett in a generally scrappy opening, before Rangers took the lead on 15 minutes as Smith headed home from Luke Freeman’s cross.

Alex Smithies saved a shot on the turn from Hoilett soon after, but the hosts were back on terms in fortunate circumstances midway through the first half when Nedum Onuoha’s back pass was underhit and Smithies saw his attempted clearance cannon off Hoilett and into his net.

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Smithies tipped a curling Hoilett effort away on 25 minutes, but Rangers countered well later in the half and Massimo Luongo had a low shot blocked.

Furlong was shown a yellow card moments later and Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore curled a disputed free kick over from 20 yards with three minutes left in the half.

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Jamie Mackie was inches away from restoring the R’s lead when his stunning curling shot came back off a post on 44 minutes, but Smithies had to produce a full-length save to deny Nathaniel Mendez-Laing at the other end.

Cardiff got their noses in front in stoppage time, though, as Bamba rose highest at the far post to head home.

The second half was barely three minutes old when Conor Washington had a free-kick blocked for R’s, while Cardiff thought they had scored a third goal moments later, but Canadian international Hoilett was adjudged to have pushed Furlong.

The hosts went close again on 51 minutes when Lee Peltier hit the crossbar from an acute angle and Hoilett had a shot deflected over, as R’s lived dangerously.

Washington’s first touch let him down as a half chance fell to the visitors on 56 minutes, but Hoilett then had another effort blocked behind for a Cardiff corner.

Holloway sent Idrissa Sylla, his injury-time matchwinner against Hull a week earlier, on for Mackie just past the hour mark, but Cardiff saw captain Sean Morrison’s back post header force Smithies into action midway through the half.

Washington made way for Yeni N’Gbakoto with 19 minutes remaining, with Pawel Wszolek sent on for Caulker moments later in Holloway’s final change.

But Smithies had to produce another impressive save to prevent Zohore from netting a third Cardiff goal from close range.

N’Gbakoto was unable to profit from another R’s half-chance with six minutes left, but Josh Scowen had a great sight of goal in the final minute of normal time when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box, only for him to shoot over the crossbar.

And the visitors almost scrambled home a last-gasp equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time, but it was not to be.

QPR: Smithies, Furlong, Onuoha, Caulker (Wszolek 72), Bidwell, Luongo, Scowen, Freeman, Mackie (Sylla 61), Smith, Washington (N’Gbakoto 71). Unused subs: Ingram, Robinson, Baptiste, Lualua.

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