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

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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.

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.

Q.P.R. 1, Tottenham 0 (Zagat-style)

QPR took a vital step towards Premier League survival and inflicted further damage on Tottenham’s hopes of a top four finish with a crucial victory at Loftus Road.”

“With both sides deploying five across midfield, space was rare in the centre” and “a fairly even first half saw little goalmouth action, yet the home side produced a touch of class to take the lead, with Adel Taarabt curling a sublime 25-yard free-kick into Brad Friedel’s bottom corner.”

It “could turn out to be his most important goal since moving to Loftus Road from Spurs, although Rangers had to cling on for the final 13 minutes with 10 men after [Taarabt] was dismissed by referee Mark Clattenburg.”

“It was like watching a car crash in slow motion, except the car was Tottenham’s season.”

via Yahoo! Sports; Taarabt haunts Tottenham and takes QPR closer to safety; The Observer; Queens Park Rangers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: match report – Telegraph; and BBC Sport.

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.

 

Manchester United 2, Q.P.R. 0 (Zagat-style)

“Already massive underdogs against the champions,” 10-man “QPR were well beaten at Old Trafford.”

Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes scored in each half” – for Scholes, “it was his third league goal since coming out of retirement in January” – “as Premier League leader Manchester” “United’s “eighth straight league win increased the pressure on crosstown rival Manchester City.”

In the 14th minute, “Ashley Young, feeling a hand placed upon him by Shaun Derry, went down as if wearing Tom Daley‘s trunks. The argument will go that Derry should not have touched Young,” but “the sending off of the visitors’ captain made it a triple whammy of suspect officiating as” “Young was a few feet offside.” If the whistle had blown, “Mark Hughes‘s side would have been punting the free-kick away instead of restarting 1-0 and a man down.”

“United should have run up a huge score, such was their overwhelming dominance thereafter.” As it was, it was huge enough, and “the defeat leaves QPR on 28 points, only outside the three-team relegation positions on goal difference ahead of Blackburn and Wigan.”

via West London Sport; Yahoo! Sports; Telegraph; The Guardian; ITN.co.uk; and Businessweek.

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. 2, Arsenal 1 (Zagat-style)

QPR breathed new life into their relegation battle with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Loftus Road to end the Gunners Barclays Premier League [seven-game] winning streak.” Rangers “showed scant respect for such a record with a resounding victory that, while not taking them out of the three on a dramatic day, will give them renewed hope of avoiding the drop.”

“There has always been something of the Tommy Cooper about Adel Taarabt — some of his tricks work but most do not,” but “Taarabt broke his duck in the 23rd minute with a superb individual effort.” He “marked his first Premier League goal by donning a fez that he then threw into the crowd, but referee Mike Dean took a dim view of his actions and brandished a yellow card.”

After Theo Walcott tied the score for Arsenal in the 37th minute, the “French midfielder [Samba] Diakite hit the winner in the 66th minute after being set up by Jamie Mackie.”

Rangers “took the game to Arsene Wenger’s side and looked dangerous early on.” After “a mere two wins in the first seven months of the season, they have doubled that in their past two home games with precious victories over Liverpool and now, Arsenal.”

via Kilburn Times; Mail Online; NDTVSports.com; Telegraph; The Observer; West London Sport; ESPN Soccernet; and Yahoo! Sports

Q.P.R. 1, Everton 1

QPR were unable to eke out a winner against Everton.” Rangers, “who have won only two of their 14 Premier League home matches,” “teeter dangerously over the drop zone with a tough-looking batch of fixtures remaining.”

“Everton went ahead through a fizzing long-range strike from Royston Drenthe in the 31st minute before Bobby Zamora bundled home the equaliser five minutes later.” Rangers “could have won if Akos Buzsaky had not missed an open goal which, as one wag pointed out, might have been scored by the squirrel that spent a good ten minutes in Everton’s half in the closing stages of the first period.”

“QPR will feel they missed a chance with Wigan and Bolton losing and Blackburn drawing.”

Rangers Manager Mark Hughes told reporters, “We were excellent in terms of closing people down and obviously trying to effect the game in a positive manner going the other way.”

via Telegraph; SuperSport ; The Observer; ClubCall.com; and EatSleepSport