Queens Park Rangers rally to beat Cardiff City
PUBLISHED: 17:01 04 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:01 04 March 2017
Queens Park Rangers 2 Cardiff City 1
Rangers came from behind to get the better of former boss Neil Warnock and his Cardiff City side for three more Championship points at Loftus Road.
Sol Bamba gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half time, but substitute Yeni N’Gbakoto levelled just past the hour mark and Matt Smith’s header was deflected into his own net by Jazz Richards to settle it.
The hosts were wearing special shirts to commemorate their 1967 League Cup win over West Brom and both teams paid tribute to former players and staff who have passed away since that historic day with a minute’s applause before kick-off.
Rangers went into the action sitting in 17th place, seven points above the relegation zone and six points behind Cardiff in 12th, and Ian Holloway had defender Grant Hall (shin) and striker Conor Washington (calf) back from injuries, but was without the suspended Luke Freeman after his red card in last weekend’s 2-1 loss at Preston and Kazenga Lua Lua, who had picked up an ankle knock in training.
Meanwhile, Warnock was facing the Hoops for the first time in the league since leaving the club in 2012, having celebrated a win and four draws in five previous encounters with his former employers.
And the visitors enjoyed an early spell of pressure, before James Perch won a corner on five minutes and Smith saw a header come back off the crossbar, before realising the referee had already blown his whistle for a Cardiff free-kick.
Smith sent another header from a Jake Bidwell free-kick drifting wide of the post, while Alex Smithies claimed a Sean Morrison header at the other end.
And Nedum Ohuoha was forced to glance the ball behind his own goal from a Harris cross on 12 minutes, but Rangers then broke out quickly thanks to Bidwell, before Washington’s shot was blocked.
Bidwell and Massimo Luongo combined well to block a Craig Noone shot when the ball broke kindly for the Cardiff striker on the quarter-hour mark, but Rangers went closer still when Washington saw a shot come back off the far post on 24 minutes.
The home side then sent several teasing crosses into the box over the next few minutes, but Jamie Mackie, Hall and Sean Goss all saw their deliveries go to waste.
And Goss had a 20-yard effort saved low down to his left by Allan McGregor, as Rangers applied further pressure late in the half, before Luongo was booked for a foul on Matthew Connolly and Perch deflected a Kadeem Harris shot behind.
Smithies had to be at his best, diving to his right, to claw away a deflected shot from Joe Ralls in the last minute, but the respite was brief as Sol Bamba sent a thumping header from Noone’s corner into the top corner of the net to break the deadlock.
Cardiff made a bright start to the second half, buoyed by their goal, and saw Kenneth Zohore tee up Junior Hoilett on 53 minutes, but the former Hoops midfielder could not make the most of the chance.
Rangers had a real let-off two minutes later, though, as Zohore’s goalbound shot was hooked off the line by Joel Lynch, with Holloway sending N’Gbakoto on for Goss for his first change of the afternoon.
But Cardiff had another chance to double their lead just before the hour, only for Zohore to blaze high and wide from inside the box, before Perch almost picked out Washington at the far post.
Rangers were back on terms on 63 minutes, though, as inspired substitute N’Gbakoto combined with Mackie before firing into the roof of the net from the right side of the box for his third goal of the season.
And the equaliser gave them a lift, with Washington scythed down by Morrison midway through the half, earning the Cardiff player a yellow card, but Noone rifled a free-kick just over the bar on 70 minutes before making way for Anthony Pilkington.
Luongo lashed wide from Washington’s lay-off, then made way for Ravel Morrison after Hoilett had curled a shot just past the upright for Cardiff.
And Holloway made his third change with nine minutes to, as Pawel Wszolek replaced Mackie, and saw Morrison tripped just outside the box and McGregor keep out N’Gbakoto’s free-kick.
Rangers took the lead seconds later, though, as N’Gbakoto’s corner from the right was met by the head of Smith, who sent a downward header bouncing into the top corner with the aid of a deflection from Richards.
But Pilkington almost hit straight back as his swerving shot just cleared the crossbar, before Rangers navigated their way through five minutes of stoppage time to claim victory.
QPR: Smithies, Onuoha, Hall, Lynch, Perch, Luongo (Morrison 67), Goss (N’Gbakoto 57), Bidwell, Mackie (Wszolek 81), Washington, Smith.
Unused subs: Ingram, Furlong, Sylla, Manning.