Bolton's Muamba Completes QPR Rout

Fabrice Muamba completes rout to ensure worst possible start for QPRWith one sumptuous swing of his right boot, Gary Cahill not only helped to get Bolton' season off to the perfect start but he ensured that one of the hottest properties of the summer transfer market just got hotter.

The central defender is known for his ruggedness in the challenge and in the air, qualities which were in evidence at Loftus Road, but not necessarily for his ability to thread shots home from 25 yards. At least, not until he stunned QPR by doing so just before half-time and, in the process, set the London club's Premier League return on the road to ruin. The Arsenal and Liverpool target has made yet more headlines.

Until the goal, Rangers might have claimed to be on top but it knocked the stuffing out of them and Bolton ran riot in the second half, securing an eye-catching result courtesy of an own goal by Danny Gabbidon, a deflected shot from Ivan Klasnic and a fine finish by Fabrice Muamba.

The pre-match hope for Rangers had been undermined long before full-time and the crowd took their frustration out on the unpopular directors, Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore. "Spend some money" was the collective exhortation. After Muamba's goal, Briatore stole away from the directors' box with jeers ringing in his ears. The club's big day had turned into a humiliation, with the final insult provided by Clint Hill's injury-time red card for a retaliatory butt on Martin Petrov.

Most QPR supporters are still coming to terms with the eye-watering ticket rises but it had felt good to be here at kick-off time, to be able to put all of the off-field turmoil to one side for 90 minutes. It has become arguably Rangers' speciality and the headline items have included the uncertainty over the future of the manager, Neil Warnock, and the potential sale of a controlling stake in the club to the Air Asia founder Tony Fernandes. Warnock has spent only £1.25m in transfer fees this summer, with his squad strengthening reliant on the Bosman market.

He had started all four of his major signings but one of them lasted only two-and-a-half-minutes before he attempted a tackle, collapsed to the turf clutching his left ankle and, after lengthy medical attention, was carried away on a stretcher. Inevitably, the player was Kieron Dyer, who is synonymous with lengthy injury lay-offs.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle went with two strikers and two genuine wingers but his team were on the back foot for much of a first half that was frustratingly disjointed.

There were too many loose passes from both teams, especially when it mattered. QPR, though, had spirit and urgency, and they offered flickers of excitement to a crowd that was ready to seize on anything.

DJ Campbell, the club's one cash signing, worked himself into dangerous areas from his starting position on the right. He had the ball in the net in the second minute, only to be pulled back for offside, and he was central to his team's best moments. Jay Bothroyd, following a Campbell cross, watched a shot flick off Gretar Steinsson and fly over the crossbar and, in first-half injury-time after Cahill's goal, the centre-forward glanced a header wide from Adel Taarabt's corner.

Bolton's travelling support also had reason to be unhappy at the Loftus Road pricing policy. "Fifty quid, you're having a laugh," they sang. But Cahill's strike felt priceless. It was a celebration of technique – one touch to set the ball from Chris Eagles' pass and another, with his right foot, to curl it from 25 yards over Paddy Kenny and into the top corner.

Bolton had barely threatened before Cahill took aim and it felt like a sucker punch for Rangers. Yet the goal fortified Coyle's team and they started the second-half in confident and more expansive vein. Some of Bolton's football made a mockery of the stereotype associated with them and the goals duly flowed, in the face of abject Rangers defending.

Gabbidon lunged at Eagles' deflected free-kick, Kenny was rooted when Klasnic's effort deflected off Bradley Orr and when Muamba gets on the scoresheet, you know you have problems. On this evidence, Rangers have plenty of them.

Powered by article was written by David Hytner at Loftus Road, for The Observer on Saturday 13th August 2011 17.09 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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