Manchester City 3, Q.P.R. 2 (Zagat-style)

Manchester City, with its “title hopes fading by the second, its anguished fans in disbelief in the stands,” “threw all its attacking might forward to produce one of English soccer’s greatest comebacks.”

“City took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but then went down 2-1 after the break despite QPR captain Joey Barton being sent off in the 55th, leaving his team with 10 men the rest of the way.” “What happened next was so extraordinary it is difficult to know if there are enough superlatives in existence to do it justice.”

Edin Dzeko headed in with the clock showing 91 min 15 sec,” then Sergio “Aguero showed great clarity of thought and composure amid the mayhem to drive into the area and beat Kenny with a powerful low finish.” “City had wrenched the title out of Manchester United’s grasp, with 60 seconds to spare and the Etihad Stadium crowd roared and sobbed and bounced and screamed.”

“QPR manager Mark Hughes felt his side switched off once they knew they had achieved safety” — “Bolton’s draw at Stoke meant Rangers stayed in the Premier League.”

via Yahoo! Sports; The Guardian; ESPN; BBC Sport; West London Sport; and Kilburn Times

Q.P.R. 1, Stoke City 0 (Zagat-style)

Djibril Cisse scored two minutes from time to drag QPR from the canvas.” Rangers, “looking for a crucial win in their fight against relegation,” “limped through the vast majority of this match.”

“Cissé has often been the villain with Queens Park Rangers, having been sent off twice since he joined the club in January.” But he “settled the match when he stole in at the back post to convert Anton Ferdinand’s flick-on” – it was “his fifth in seven matches since arriving from Lazio.”

“Thanks to West Brom’s late comeback to draw 2-2 at Bolton, QPR are now two points above the relegation zone.” Rangers close the season at “Manchester City, who will lift the Premier League crown with a final-day win.”

via Telegraph; Soccerway ; The Guardian; Yahoo! News; Mail Online; BBC Sport ; Kilburn Times; and West London Sport.

Chelsea 6, Q.P.R. 1 (Zagat-style)

Fernando Torres hit a hat-trick as Champions League finalists Chelsea boosted their hopes of a top-four finish and deepened QPR’s relegation worries.”

“After dispatching Spurs,” “there were high hopes,” but “QPR showed up without an ounce of fight” and “continued [a] bit of slow torture for … supporters.”

“The opening half-hour was played in a party atmosphere.” “As it poured goals in the first half, four within 26 minutes, Chelsea fans were singing in the rain,” referring to the Champions League: “We’re going to Germany, you’re going to Barnsley.”

“Rangers were a mess at the back and this was underlined by the fourth goal, which came when [Paddy] Kenny was unable to hold Nedum Onuoha’s poor back-header and Torres was on hand to tap in.”

“Victory here thrust Chelsea back into contention for a top-four finish.” The loss did little “for the Hoops, whose inadequacies were woefully exposed by their rampant hosts.”

via Telegraph; The Guardian; BBC Sport; Yahoo! Sports; West London Sport; Kilburn Times; and ESPN Soccernet

The Hungry Games: Three Games to Go

Rank Team Remarks
A brown spot in the grass Wolverhampton
(23 points in 35 games; goal differential of -41) Best odds of relegation? (It’s a sure thing). With three games to go, Wolves Manager Terry Connor told reporters, “Over 38 games we’ve proved not good enough to stay in the Premier League.” Remaining schedule: Swansea, Everton and Wigan.
On the ground Blackburn
(31/35/-26) Odds, 2/11. A 2-0 win over Norwich ended a five-game skid, but Blackburn is still 3 points below the presumed safety line. That hasn’t discouraged Junior Hoilett, who told The Lancashire Telegraph, “We have belief and we just have to play our games and we will get the results.” Remaining schedule: Tottenham, Wigan and Chelsea.
Slipping backward Q.P.R.
(34/35/-18) Odds, 7/5. Adel Taarabt fueled an impressive 1-0 win against Tottenham, then, in typical Rangers fashion, was ejected from the game. Manager Mark Hughes also spoke of destiny, telling The Kilburn Times that he wouldn’t trade places with game-in-hand Bolton, no matter what. “My preference would be to have points on the board. I think that’s better than having games in hand.” It is, of course, but getting the points is the tricky part. Remaining schedule: Chelsea, Stoke City and Man City.
Gaining ground Bolton
(33/34/-28) Odds, 6/4. A draw against Swansea and then a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa led Bolton Manager Owen Coyle to announce that his players are “masters of their own destiny.” Whether they are or not, Bolton still has a game in hand on their rivals and has lost only twice since the beginning of March. Remaining games: Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke City.
Only nervous Wigan
(34/35/-26) Odds, 3/1. Lost by 2-1 to Fulham after defeating Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive weeks. But still has plenty of meat lagging behind them. Remaining schedule: Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.

West Brom 1, Q.P.R. 0 (Zagat-style)

Queens Park Rangers’ poor away form continued as they lost narrowly to West Bromwich Albion to remain just two points clear of the relegation zone.” “QPR started brightly,” but “could only look on as Graham Dorrans’ inspired, match-winning shot flew in from 30 yards.”

Bobby Zamora should certainly have done better with a couple of the openings that came his way in a match Rangers ought to have taken at least a point from.” “Otherwise the home team dominated the first half hour, in terms of possession at least.”

“So QPR have four games left to ensure their Premier League survival — no easy task given they still have to play Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City.”

via West London Sport; BBC Sport; Telegraph; football.co.uk; and The Observer

The Hungry Games: Six Games to Go

Rank Team Remarks
All-Gone Wolverhampton
(22 points in 32 games; goal differential of -36) Best odds of relegation, 1/50. As good as gone, as the cat said to the mouse; has lost six in a row despite smartest kit in the league. Remaining schedule: Arsenal (April 11), Sunderland, Manchester City, Swansea, Everton and Wigan.
Top-Off Wigan
(28/32/-27) Odds, 8/15. Just two losses since January, but only two wins, too. That is not how John Wayne would do it. Remaining schedule: Man United (April 11), Arsenal, Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.
Top-Off Q.P.R.
(28/32/-21) Odds, 4/6. Only two (ye gawds!) wins in 2012. If Rangers had won as often as they were red-carded, they’d be on to something. Remaining schedule: Swansea (April 11), West Brom, Tottenham, Chelsea, Stoke City and Man City.
Just nibbles Blackburn
(28/32/-24) Odds, 11/8. This is how things are going: After a 2-0 drubbing by Man United on April 2, Blackburn vowed grimly to bounce back, then lost by 3-0 to West Brom on Saturday. Remaining schedule: Liverpool (April 10), Swansea, Norwich, Tottenham, Wigan and Chelsea.
Just nibbles Bolton
(29/31/-27) Odds, 11/4. Three wins in the last five weeks, including against Rangers, but still leads the Premier League in defeats. Remaining schedule: Newcastle (April 9), Swansea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke City.

 

The Hungry Games

“It is difficult to say what it will be, but I think the lowest point total has been something like 34,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as low as that but it won’t be as high as 40.

via QPR boss wants 12 points to secure safety- with three from Man Utd clash – QPR – Kilburn Times.

I am not British (“Up the rebels!”), and do not (despite having rambled on a bit on the subject) consider myself a soccer expert. But. A quibble:

It is true that the “lowest point total” recorded by a Premier League team that avoided relegation is 34 (West Brom in 2005), but that sort of thing should not be on the tip of a coach’s tongue. Outliers are so for a reason, and you do not have to be a poet to realize that emulating West Brom is not exactly the way forward.

The tricky thing about the way the Premier League table is shaping up is that (as of Saturday night) four teams were in an ungainly clot above last-place Wolverhampton (22 points): Wigan, Blackburn and Q.P.R. (28 points), and Bolton (29 points). That means it is not a target number Hughes should be worrying about — though 38 still sounds good to us — but like a bear-threatened camper in the woods, he should be thinking more about being faster than his slowest friends.

Unfortunately for their tender haunches, Rangers have easily the most difficult remaining schedule — including a grueling three games in the next seven days.

On Sunday, of course, they play league-leading Manchester United (76 points). That is followed quickly by a game Wednesday against fellow newcomer Swansea, a gallingly solid club that is gallingly clear of danger with 39 galling points, and then a regular Saturday morning start against West Brom (39). The rest of the season is more grim: April 21 vs. Tottenham (59), April 29 vs. Chelsea (56), May 6 vs. Stoke City (41) and May 13 vs. Man City (71).

That slate, the astute reader will notice, includes four of the top six teams in the league, opponents with an overall average point total of 54.4. It is no wonder that the odds of Rangers’ dropping have declined steadily from better than 6 to 1 three months ago to nearly even money now. Of their relegation-threatened peers, only Wigan (1/2 to go down) plays more than three of the league’s elite — and it finishes with games against Blackburn and Wolverhampton, potentially the softest landing for any Premier League team.

  • Wigan’s last six opponents are, in order, Man United (76), Arsenal (58), Fulham (42), Newcastle (56), Blackburn (28) and Wolverhampton (22).
  • Blackburn has Liverpool (43), Swansea (39), Norwich (40), Tottenham (59), Wigan (28) and Chelsea (56).
  • And Bolton goes Newcastle (56), Tottenham (59), Swansea (39), Sunderland (42), West Brom (39) and Stoke City (41).

Now, just spitballing here, but let’s half-assedly handicap that. Assuming a win against a top-six team is out of the question, and ties against opponents in that broad, featureless middle ground between 44 points and 39 points are a most likely outcome, 7 points for Wigan seems well within reach. So let’s call Wigan potentially the fastest camper. Blackburn can assuredly hit at least 6 points; of course, that takes 3 away from Wigan, but the point is Blackburn is not the slowest camper. And 4 points seems a fair minimum for sounds-delicious Bolton.

So you are left to conclude that Q.P.R. needs at least 7 points to avoid the grizzly’s steaming maw, and should obviously be aiming for better than that, assuming something goes to hell, like Man United’s laying an egg at Wigan. Because something always goes to hell.

Hughes thinks 12 points will get his club to safety; the question is, where do they come from? The two Manchester dates do not seem likely contenders, and the much-more talented Tottenham and Chelsea are sure to be motivated and still fighting for Champions League money. That leaves Swansea, West Brom and Stoke, three teams with vulnerabilities, probably, but who, definitely, have managed their affairs better than Q.P.R.

Even if you argue that three wins in seven games is Rangers’ best case, that puts them at only 37 points. Still in danger of a slow digestion next season in the Championship stomach.

Q.P.R. Sends Up the White Flag

Going up against Arsenal and Manchester United, we’re going to have to make sure we put a shift in and make sure that we can make better decisions than we did today.

via QPR boss wants side to show character for Arsenal and Man Utd games – QPR – Kilburn Times.

Never mind actually trying to win, Mark Hughes seems to be saying, just let us appear to be trying to win.

It is probably not hard to find a professional sports team that flubbed its opportunities as thoroughly as Queens Park Rangers are doing. But that takes nothing away from the developing catastrophe on Loftus Road. The previous owners were famously derided for envisioning the club as a soccer “boutique.” That goal, albeit an absurd one, was at least attainable.

Q.P.R. 3, Liverpool 2 (Zagat-style)

QPR were a shambles early on as Samba Diakite and [Joey] Barton both misplaced passes leading to Liverpool attacks.” Liverpool Manager Kenny “Dalglish stated that Liverpool should have been ‘three, four’ goals to the good by half-time – and that was no exaggeration.”

Pero “cuando todo indicaba a que los visitantes se terminarían llevando la victoria de manera muy cómoda, comenzó lo que nadie imaginó.” Rangers scored “three goals in the final 14 minutes,” leaving “Liverpool stunned and [giving] Rangers only their second league victory under manager Mark Hughes.”

With his team trailing by 2-0, Shaun “Derry rose high at a corner kick to head home powerfully from inside the penalty area to drag his side back into the clash in the 77th minute.” Djibril Cisse, “who had promised to show his former employers no mercy,” scored with “an imperious header from a Taye Taiwo cross four minutes from time to restore parity.”

“Liverpool were reeling,” and “José Enrique‘s inexplicable tumble that allowed Jamie Mackie in for the stoppage-time winning goal summed up the visitors’ haplessness.”

“It could be a defining moment and we have to make sure that it is,” [Hughes] said.”

via Liverpool Echo; Futbol Ingles ; West London Sport; Yahoo! Eurosport; London 24; The Guardian; Kilburn Times; and Telegraph.

Starting Over All Over Again

…it is symptomatic of the general lack of urgency which has emanated from the club as they have slid slowly but surely towards trouble since Christmas, taking six points from a possible 33.

via The QPR Verdict: Why Rangers’ approach has been flawed from the outset – QPR – Kilburn Times.

But at the end of the day, you’re there because of the games you’ve played. The league table doesn’t lie,

via Clint Hill, in West London Sport We cannot make excuses, says QPR man.

The real problem for Rangers, which was easily solved, is that the owner, Tony Fernandes, took control too late in the summer to overhaul the club to his (and the former manager Neil Warnock’s) liking and so was tempted to try again in January. The difficulty of a club’s having to absorb two waves of newcomers and reconnect (or, indeed, generate) all the chemical bonds that make it effective on the field should have been obvious.

Compelling and mournful poetry could be composed from the headlines of the scores of articles reporting the confidence of various Rangers coaches and players that 1, the transfer of this player or that player is all the team needs and 2, the possibility of relegation is not even being contemplated.