Carabao Cup First Round
QPR 3 Bristol City 3
(Rangers win 5-4 on pens)
Mark Warburton’s new-look QPR won a penalty shoot-out to claim a spot in the second round of the Carabao Cup.
In a highly entertaining encounter, the R’s trailed, led, trailed again and then hit a late equaliser to force penalties.
Liam Kelly was then the hero of the hour, saving from City’s Niclas Eliasson with a dive to his right, then keeping out a shot down the centre from Bailey Wright to seal victory.
Rangers again gave glimpses of the greater mobility and energy which promises to make this a season of quiet progress, at the very least.
There were eight changes to the team which drew 1-1 with Huddersfield Town at the weekend, but the new combination stayed true to the manager’s desire to see a squad committed to pressing high and playing with pace.
Matt Smith looked composed in midfield on his debut and the Man City teenager was one of many plus points for fans to take home. Ilias Chair bagged his first competitive goal for the club and looked full of beans throughout. Tottenham loanee Luke Amos looked a class act when he came on after the break.
The visitors looked the more polished at the outset, with striker Famara Diedhiou rounding Kelly to score from a tight angle with only 13 minutes gone.
But spirited Rangers hit back almost immediately, Nahki Wells drilling home from the edge of the area on 15 minutes before the hosts capitalised on some wayward passing to grab the lead on 27 minutes – Chair scoring from close range after being set up by Marc Pugh.
Jack Hunt made it all square before the interval when he cut in from the right to unleash a perfect shot into the far corner past Kelly and an equally spectacular strike – a 30-yard free-kick from Liam Walsh, had Bristol City in front on 58 minutes.
Wells almost had a second goal, firing against the bar from outside the box in the home side’s final flurry, but then won a penalty with five minutes to go – Ryan Manning putting the gift away to level it up again. Rangers finished the match in the ascendancy but needed penalties to win through - holding their nerve during a finale played out at the School End in front of the visiting fans,
The teams meet again on Saturday at Ashton Gate in the Championship, when the line-ups will be very different. But Rangers will travel in good heart, still unbeaten and still flush with early-season optimism.
QPR: Kelly – Kane (Mlakar 60), Ball, Leistner, Barbet - Smith, Scowen (Owens 74), Pugh (Amos 60), Manning – Chair, Wells. Subs not used: Lumley, Oteh, Osayi-Samuel, Masterson.
Pens scored: Manning, Mlakar, Wells, Chair, Amos. Missed: Smith, Barbet.