QUEENS Park Rangers were left dumbfounded as Bolton Wanderers outclassed the Premier League new-boys in the season’s opener.
While Rangers were more than a match for the Lancashire outfit for good proportions of the fixture, they were left wanting in key departments as the Whites cantered to a comfortable win.
England international Gary Cahill opened the scoring in first half injury time with a tremendous dipping effort from the edge of the area. The timing was the strike was as decisive as the finish itself.
Despite flurries of activity in the Bolton penalty area, it was the visiting side that doubled the lead and killed the game when Danny Gabbidon tucked a hopeful cross into his own net.
Ivan Klasnic compounded the misery when his deflected effort flew past Paddy Kenny for number three, while a neat interchange tore through a naive QPR rearguard to present Fabrice Muamba with a well-taken goal.
An injury to Keiron Dyer and a red card for Clint Hill was further evidence that today simply wasn’t the day for a QPR side that has much to learn if they are to improve on this display and retain their Premier League status.
Neil Warnock handed debuts to four players in the Premier League curtain raiser, with DJ Campbell, Jay Bothroyd, Danny Gabbidon and Keiron Dyer.
Rangers started in their customary 4-2-3-1 formation, with Paddy Kenny starting behind a back four of Dyer, Gabbidon, Fitz Hall and Clint Hill – Kaspars Gorkss omitted from the squad ahead of a proposed move to Southampton.
Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry were the familiar duo in the heart of midfield, with Tommy Smith, Adel Taarabt and Campbell starting behind lone striker Jay Bothroyd.
Bolton meanwhile started with Jussi Jääskeläinen behind a back four of Gretar Steinsson, Gary Cahill, Zat Knight and Paul Robinson with Fabrice Muamba and Nigel Reo-Coker starting in the middle.
Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov started wide with Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic spearheading the Whites attack at Loftus Road.
KICK OFF: QPR v BOLTON WANDERERS
The players took to the field in a cauldron of noise as Rangers were back in the top flight for the first time since 1996. The noise and the atmosphere was spine tingling as the feel-good factor had truly returned to W12.
The R’s nearly had the ideal start when DJ Campbell showed signs of his close range prowess. After both he and fellow debutante Jay Bothroyd vied for the opportunity in the heart of the area it was Campbell who lashed home from close range.
The fans cheered, the music played, but the linesman stood defiant with a flag raised. An exciting opening tempered by the minor disappointment of a perfect start being thwarted. Matters worsened moments later with news of an injury.
Keiron Dyer, who has had some well-documented struggles with injuries, crumpled to the floor after a challenge with Martin Petrov. The makeshift full back attempted to run the injury off but was stretchered off, a sight sadly synonymous with the former England international.
He was replaced by last season’s stalwart Bradley Orr, as the physical nature of the encounter had ramped up somewhat. Kevin Davies was inevitably asserting his presence on the new-look back four but was struggling to get a great deal from his counterparts.
Bothroyd was extremely unfortunate not to open his account on debut when he was thwarted from close range. Some more useful chasing by Campbell saw the former Cardiff City man lash an effort goal-bound from inside the area.
Paul Robinson was in the right place at the right time to head over the bar from point blank range. Rangers were proving rampant in the early stages and were looking good value for a goal.
Once again though Bolton were providing timely reminders that their attacking prowess and Premier League experience was not to be ignored. Davies and Petrov shied at goal with the latter seeing his effort fly into the stands.
It was the R’s that had the running however, and when Taarabt carved out a useful pass for Campbell. The striker rounded Jääskeläinen before rolling back to Tommy Smith. The wide-man conspired to place his effort back to the ‘keeper as the Wanderers defence could breathe a sigh of relief.
Bolton’s physical presence was not to be understated with Reo-Coker booked for hacking down Taarabt, while Davies can count himself very lucky not to be in the book after a succession of infringements culminating in a wild challenge on Paddy Kenny.
While QPR were seeing the majority of the early exchange in this affair, they were unable to make their advantage pay, and as such were taught a valuable lesson a couple of minutes into first half injury time.
After a long throw had been snuffed out, the home side were sluggish in their reaction to a quickly taken second effort. The ineffectual Chris Eagles was fortunate to see his touch find it’s way to GARY CAHILL and the central defender was ruthless.
He surged to the right before unleashing a dipping effort beyond Paddy Kenny and into top left hand corner. The celebration was justified after what was a world-class effort from the highly sought-after defender.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS
It was a sickening blow for Rangers, who took their eye off the ball at the crucial moment and in a nutshell described the hardships of the top flight and indeed the difference between this level and the Championship.
Rangers went into the break to contemplate these thoughts, but were nevertheless applauded from the field by their still buoyant supporters. A tough lesson to learn, and one they’d have to get over quickly if they were to register a maximum on opening day.
HALF TIME: QPR v BOLTON WANDERERS
Bolton came out of the traps quickly after the break and Kenny had to be on top form to deny Klasnic. The forward spun well and fired a rasping effort that stung the palms of the R’s stopper. Kenny retrieved the ball at the second attempt in a heart-stopping moment for the hosts.
The opening ten minutes were keenly-fought if slightly uneventful, but Taarabt sparked the hosts into life when he created some space on 55 minutes. He surged to his right and hit a deflected effort beyond the post in another unfortunate instance.
Fitz Hall committed a rather disappointing foul on Klasnic, when he pressed the Croatian unnecessarily and with great force, sending him tumbling near the corner flag. The resultant free kick saw Davies nod wide from a Petrov centre.
Taarabt once again played tormentor at the other end as he broke into his stride. He cut in from the left before sending a teasing, curling effort inches beyond the right-hand upright. The luck was evading Rangers and that become even more evident moments later.
Faurlín was adjudged to have fouled Davies in the edge of the area and Eagles’ cross skipped up off the unfortunate DANNY GABBIDON saw the ball skip up off his leg and beyond the forlorn Kenny.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS
By now it was proving an uphill struggle for the R’s, while not getting the rub of the green, were looking strangers at the back at times in the centre of defence. Once again this fact was reiterated as Bolton carved a hole through a ragged Rangers defence.
IVAN KLASNIC took the ball in his stride in the heart of the area and with little to no pressure on the Croatian front-man he was able to rifle the ball goal-bound. In fairness to Kenny he could do little more than watch the ball deflect harshly beyond him and into the right-hand corner.
Once again Rangers were left to rue their fortune, while also posing some questions in the heart of their defence. Hall and Gabbidon had coped well with high balls, but clearly were struggling on a communication level. Bolton by now were home and hosed.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS
There were some rumblings of discontent in the home crowd, primarily aimed towards the directors box and Flavio Briatore. Mr Briatore soon decided to depart and was met with the jeers of sections of the home crowd.
Matters soon got worse when another gaping hole was exploited in the heart of defence. Rangers were naive in their endeavours to plough forward and FABRICE MUAMBA was able to scythe through and roll beyond Kenny for a fourth.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS
Clint Hill lost his temper into injury time, lashing out at Martin Petrov in a rather foolish manner. The defender was shown a straight red by referee Atkinson and was forced to trudge to the dressing room.
The home supporters stayed with the side, backing boss Neil Warnock fervently despite the difficult conditions. Owen Coyle’s side had displayed the difference between the Football League and the Premier League – ruthlessness.
Comparative in terms of chances, the two sides were separated only by the clinical finishing of an experienced Bolton side. Rangers must now recover quickly to improve against Everton next time out.
FULL TIME: QPR v BOLTON WANDERERS
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Kenny, Hill, Derry, Hall, Gabbidon, Taarabt (Buzsaky 72), Dyer (Orr 7), Campbell, Bothroyd, Faurlin, Smith (Helguson 72).
Jasskelainen, Steinsson, Robinson, Cahill, Muamba, Eagles (M Davies), Petrov, Knight, K Davies, Klasnic (Blake 86), Reo-Coker (Pratley 83).