Queens Park Rangers vs Middlesbrough. Sky Bet Championship.
Loftus Road StadiumAttendance15,796.
Report and free match highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash between QPR and Middlesbrough at Loftus Road as Rangers held off a second-half Boro comeback to secure victory on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday 6 August 2022 21:00, UK
QPR held off a Middlesbrough fightback to win 3-2 and give Michael Beale his first victory as boss.
Chloe Kelly, scorer of England's winner in their recent Euros triumph, was the guest of honour at Loftus Road, where Rangers were three up before Boro clawed their way back into the game.
West Londoner Kelly, a QPR fan who began her career with the club's women's team, presented the match ball before kick-off and saw the hosts make a dream start.
Chris Willock, on his return from injury, netted a brilliant opener before goals from Jimmy Dunne and Lyndon Dykes put Rangers in control.
Matt Crooks scored shortly before the interval and Marcus Forss' goal - his first for Boro - 11 minutes into the second half increased the visitors' hopes of pulling off a comeback.
But they were unable to find an equaliser and ended the match with 10 men after Darragh Lenihan was red-carded in injury time for bringing down Macauley Bonne, who would have been through on goal.
Rangers were in the thick of the promotion race under Beale's predecessor Mark Warburton last season before a spectacular slump during the second half of the campaign.
They were particularly poor without playmaker Willock, who was sidelined in March by a hamstring tear which required surgery.
And the former Arsenal trainee underlined his importance to the team by putting them ahead in brilliant fashion in the 13th minute.
Willock strode forward from deep, fended off two Boro challenges and sent an unstoppable long-range shot beyond Zack Steffen and into the corner of the net.
Steffen then managed to push away a Dykes strike from a similar range, but a terrible mistake by the American keeper led to Rangers doubling their lead on 27 minutes.
After coming for Ilias Chair's left-wing corner, Steffen completely missed the ball and it bounced off Dunne and into the net.
By the 38th-minute mark it was 3-0. Stefan Johansen whipped in a free-kick from the left and Dykes got in front of Marc Bola to head home.
Boro reduced the deficit three minutes later, when Crooks got in front of QPR defender Rob Dickie to head in Ryan Giles' corner.
Crooks then turned provider to set up recent signing Forss, who was making his full debut, for a simple close-range finish.
The away fans briefly thought their side had equalised when Paddy McNair touched in Giles' cross, but the offside flag was quickly raised.
At the other end, substitute Albert Adomah almost added a Rangers fourth when his low shot fizzed narrowly wide of the far post.
QPR's Michael Beale: "What a goal. He's picked the ball up just inside our half, travelled 20 or 30 yards and put it in the top corner. We know how good he is at this level and he brings the best out of others. We were missing him and Luke Amos and felt they would make a difference - and they certainly made a difference.
"I don't think people realise the effort it took for Chris to get through 70 minutes. But it was important we had him on the pitch, because he impacted the game - and what a fantastic goal."
Middlesbrough's Chris Wilder: "We're all trying. It's just such a difficult market to deal in. We're all trying to do the best deals and get the right players. We're still miles off. People that commentate on the Championship are putting us up there, maybe because of historical things, the size of the club, big crowds and what managers have done in the past.
"But, as a group, I think we understand there's still an awful lot of work that needs to be done for us to be talked of in the same breath as a Sheffield United, West Brom or a Norwich or Watford or Burnley that have been tipped to have a successful season."