Maloney piles pressure on QPR with late equaliser
Remy’s late strike not enough as Wigan rescue point
QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar reacts after he was beaten by a late free-kick from Wigan’s Shaun Maloney at Loftus Road. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
QPR 1 Wigan 1: An injury-time free-kick from Shaun Maloney rescued a point for Wigan Athletic at Loftus Road and heaped further agony on Queens Park Rangers. The hosts, reduced to 10 men following Bobby Zamora's first-half sending-off, looked set for a vital victory after Loïc Rémy scored on 84 minutes with a stunning effort – a quickly hit, right-footed volley – but had their hearts broken at the last when Maloney curled the ball past Júlio César.
It was a devastating moment for QPR, who are now seven points off safety with six games to play. Wigan remain in the relegation zone but only on goal difference and with a game in hand on Sunderland in 17th. They can look forward to next week's FA Cup semi-final against Millwall with some sense of hope that they will remain in the Premier League.
Despite the disastrous nature of QPR's defensive display at Fulham last Monday, Redknapp did not make any changes to his back four. Instead his sole change was in midfield, with Junior Hoilett coming in for Adel Taarabt. Wigan, meanwhile, were unchanged from the victory over Norwich City.
It was QPR who started the brighter, with their midfield pressing Wigan whenever they were in possession. Andros Townsend, stationed on the right wing, was particularly impressive in the early stages with Manuel Figueroa, the Wigan left back, struggling to contain his surging runs and crosses into the area.
It was Wigan, however, who had the first decent effort of the match, with Callum McManaman able to cut inside the area and test César with a low drive on eight minutes. Having lost their previous two matches, QPR could have allowed that moment to rattle them but they went back on the front foot and came even closer to taking the lead with a rasping drive from Rémy that struck a post.
This was a high-energy, fully committed display from the hosts but Zamora took it too far on 20 minutes when he drove his studs into Jordi Gómez's head as he mistimed an attempt to stop the Spaniard collecting Maloney's thrown-in. Following consultation with his assistant on the far side, the referee, Phil Dowd, sent off the 32-year-old. Zamora was enraged with the official, no doubt arguing a lack of intent on his behalf, but his tackle was reckless and dangerous and, as such, the decision was correct.
The momentum of the contest suddenly adjusted, with Wigan now dominating possession and territory. They struggled, however, to break down QPR until the 32nd minute when McManaman drove a low shot from the edge of the area that just went wide of the far post.
In general, however, there was a lack of urgency to their approach.
Redknapp brought on Nedum Onuoha for Armand Traoré at half-time but did not alter his 4-4-1 formation, which led to Wigan continuing to control the game.
This was becoming a desperate situation for Redknapp's side, given how much they needed to win, and it came as little surprise when the manager brought Adel Taarabt on for Hoilett after 56 minutes. The Moroccan made his presence felt on the hour, flicking a cross towards the back post that Remy headed just wide.
QPR gradually began to exercise some sustained pressure but back came Wigan, albeit still showing little urgency in their attacking play. They passed the ball around neatly and mainly sideways, giving Arouna Koné, who came into this game having scored six times in his last eight league games, few chances to test QPR's defence.
The visitors, however, should have taken the lead on 77 minutes through Maloney. The midfielder found himself unmarked inside the six-yard area but could only watch with frustration as César saved his header from Gómez's left-wing cross. It was an excellent save by the Brazilian but the ball came at him at a good height.
Avoiding going behind, QPR then got the goal they craved on 84 minutes. Rémy collected Stéphane Mbia's through-pass after a Wigan free-kick on the edge of the hosts' area broke down and driving down the right channel of the area, lashed a shot past Joel Robles. The goalkeeper had no chance.
But the outpouring of joy across the stadium soon turned to anguish as Maloney capitalised on a free-kick he had won himself having been barged to the ground by Mbia.