City unable to summon required clinical finish
QPR 0 Manchester City 0:Roberto Mancini merely offered a shrug on the final whistle yet there was something troubling that, on the night the champions sanctioned the sale of Mario Balotelli to Milan, they could only muster a goalless draw against the Premier League’s bottom team.
An opportunity to cut the distance to Manchester United at the top has been passed up, and the leaders can stretch their advantage back to seven points tonight. The title defence feels slightly fraught once more.
This was wasteful merely on the basis of the current table though Queens Park Rangers, 20th but not cut off, are far more awkward opponents these days than they were.
Balotelli probably would not have made a difference, and was arguably missed less here than Yaya Toure’s leggy presence driving City forward in midfield, but it was still an untimely blank from Mancini’s forward line.
The Londoners have their own four-match unbeaten league run to cling to, all hinting at progress, with this a bonus ahead of games they must win. Their own mood of celebration at the end was telling.
The next 48 hours may be more frantic at QPR as the owner, Tony Fernandes, and his chief executive, Phil Beard, attempt to recruit a swathe of players teed up by the management and all aimed at preserving top-flight status.
QPR will listen to offers for a number of his players: Jose Bosingwa, most obviously, but also Samba Diakite and Esteban Granero, who did start this game.
This contest initially passed Granero by yet he eventually bought into the occasion and chased down Pablo Zabaleta inside the City half, and it was that collective commitment which gave Rangers some hope.
There was a resilience to the home side in the swirling wind here which belied their position at the bottom. They were robust in confronting Citys workaholic midfield and had hassled and harried, disrupted their patient attempts at build-play, and even started to nag at the champions’ frustrations.
When Ryan Nelsen summoned a wonderful tackle on Joleon Lescott at a City corner they even sensed an opportunity, Adel Taarabt sprinting the length of the pitch in possession to draw a fine save from Joe Hart at the other end.
That was arguably the best opportunity of a first half in which City had hogged the ball.
Julio Cesar saving smartly at his near-post from Gareth Barry’s snapshot after Stephane Mbia had stumbled and surrendered possession. Zabaleta had planted a diving header on to the crossbar while Lescott might have done better when Cesar punched weakly to present the ball to the centre-half six yards out.
Yet, for all the darting runs offered by Carlos Tevez, Silva and Sergio Aguero, City lacked a presence in the penalty area, a perception reinforced by the sight of Javi Garcia belting a shot just wide from 45 yards.
Edin Dzeko was summoned from the bench for the ineffective Samir Nasri and the visitors at least boasted a focal point though QPR remained steadfast.
Clint Hill and Nelsen thumped everything away that came within range and, as City grew more frantic, Cesar made a staggering instinctive block to deny Silva and help preserve a vital clean sheet.
QPR:Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Traore, Mbia (Faurlin 90 mins), Derry, Da Silva, Taarabt, Granero (Park 89 mins), Remy (Zamora 90 mins). Subs not used: Green, Ben Haim, Bothroyd, Murphy. Booked: M’Bia, Granero MAN CITY: Hart, Zabaleta, Lescott, Javi Garcia, Clichy, Milner (Sinclair 86 mins), Barry, Nasri (Dzeko 58 mins), Tevez, (Rodwell 73 mins) Silva, Aguero. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Nastasic, Rekik. Booked: Barry, Zabaleta. Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).