A 3-3 draw with Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland has dented Manchester City’s hopes of preventing their city rivals from securing their 20th top-flight title, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s 13th.
Many would have expected City to secure three points after Mario Balotelli’s penalty cancelled out Sebastian Larsson’s opener, but Nicklas Bendtner’s goal on the stroke of half-time saw the visitors spark a furious reaction from Roberto Mancini.
And Larsson extended the Black Cats’ lead, before late goals from Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov claimed a point for the hosts, although they failed to complete what would have been a remarkable turnaround.
City’s failure to win will lead to accusations of choking, and they will surely be likened to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United who built up what seemed an unassailable 10-point lead in the 1995/1996 Premier League season, but Ferguson’s United claimed the title on the last day of the campaign.
City, who have only won one of their last four league matches, seem to be losing their form at the crucial part of the campaign while United are unbeaten in 11 matches having beaten Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.
It appears the writing is now on the wall following this latest setback, although the derby clash on 30 April could be the deciding factor in who has their name on the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
Once again Queens Park Rangers pull out a result against a big team – perhaps surprisingly keeping 11 players on the pitch in the process.
They can now add Arsenal’s scalp to those of Chelsea and Liverpool but have a daunting run of games away to the two Manchester clubs and Roberto Di Matteo’s side, with Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur
visiting Loftus Road.
For the Hoops’ supporters, it must be incredibly frustrating to watch your team beat the big boys but then completely implode in the games they should be winning.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have had similar problems in seasons past but you see what happens when the shock wins start to dry up – you get mired in a relegation fight.
QPR have more to give and should just about drag themselves out of the drop zone. And if they do, they need to sort this problem out and anchor themselves in mid-table security.
No doubt Mark Hughes will spend big in the summer to make sure QPR aren’t in a similar fight next year – assuming they stay up.
But their inability to play as well against the less glamorous teams smacks of an arrogance in the club that needs to be weeded out.
They aren’t good enough players for that – but they are good enough to win games if they can come together as a proper team.
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