Tuesday 12 December 2017

Toure strikes late to seal win

DION FANNING, at Loftus Road

Until yesterday evening, the Premier League appeared to have had found sense again. The big teams won by sober margins and nothing alarming happened. Then Manchester City, as they are prone to do, made a big noise.

City and QPR shared five goals at Loftus Road last night. City came from behind and couldn't shake off Rangers for some time before Yaya Toure scored their third to keep Roberto Mancini's side five points clear at the top.

Alex Ferguson was hailed at Old Trafford and presented with a fitting monument to his astonishing achievements on his anniversary, but he would have been as happy with City dropping points.

The future battles always engage Ferguson and he knows he has a tussle dealing with this City side, which remains unbeaten after last night's gruelling test in west London.

Manchester City began the game as if the threat they pose to United had been an illusion. "It should have been 10," their supporters chanted, a reminder of the reality of their threat and the six goals City had scored at Old Trafford.

City played well last night for about 15 minutes, scored two goals either side of their good moments and then battled to overcome Neil Warnock's side.

They were lucky to be level at half-time after a first 45 minutes of clumsiness. After an hour of the game, the only mystery was that they were only one goal ahead.

"It wasn't tougher than we anticipated, we expected that kind of game," City's assistant manager David Platt said, standing in for Mancini who had returned to Italy to see his ill father.

Neil Warnock, revelling in his role as Neil Warnock this season, described the result as "diabolical" before lamenting the honesty of his midfielder Jamie Mackie who he felt should have gone down when he was fouled in the box. "Naive, yes, that's a word I'd use and maybe a few others."

Mario Balotelli, meanwhile, was being criticised for a dive adding to the moral maze of simulation.

City had more pressing problems than outrage yesterday. Vincent Kompany's suspension left them vulnerable, with Stefan Savic unsure all evening. QPR's midfielder Alejandro Faurlin -- "the best player on the pitch by a mile" -- kept QPR moving and he sought out City's weaknesses.

Savic's presence was one. QPR went ahead when a Joey Barton free-kick had the crowd sighing with anticipation the minute it left his boot. Jay Bothroyd didn't squander the opportunity, leaping over Richards and Savic to give QPR the lead.

Joe Hart was forced to make saves, including one astonishing reaction to a Heidar Helguson header, which turned out to be offside. City were hanging on.

They did that. "You have to give them credit, they saw another side to the Premier League and they dug it out," Warnock said.

City remembered what they could do before the first half ended. Anton Ferdinand let Edin Dzeko come inside, then dived in and Dzeko finished. Dzeko had done nothing until that point but that is part of his threat.

Silva was suffering with a back problem and it may have taken him 45 minutes to warm up but in the second half, he made his presence felt. In the end, all Joey Barton could do was make his presence apparent when he chopped Silva down and was booked. Silva, in his own way, is more intimidating.

City's second goal offered a glimpse into his overactive mind and technical gifts. When Dzeko pulled the ball across goal, Silva reacted quickly. He considered a dummy and considered it for so long, it looked like he was letting the ball run by him. But then he stuck out a foot, dragged the ball with him and slammed his shot past Paddy Kenny.

City wanted to run away with it but QPR wouldn't let the game die. Armand Traore whipped in a dangerous cross and there was a lack of order in the City box that Mancini would have found distressing.

Bothroyd dived to head towards goal, then the ball bounced off Helguson on the line. City appealed for offside but Savic had played him on.

City fell back on the doomed principle that no matter how many the opponents scored, they would score more. Aleksandar Kolarov crossed and Yaya Toure made sure with his header.

City have scored 39 goals in 11 league games so they always believe they'll score more. Right now they need this capacity. Right now, Alex Ferguson has his latest greatest challenge.

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