Sep 1 2012 By Yann Tear
Man City 3-1 QPR
RANGERS returned to the scene of their bitter-sweet final day escape, but again went home empty-handed after threatening to claim an unlikely draw.
Only an injury time goal from Carlos Tevez ended QPR's hopes, although in reality, Mark Hughes' men were always second best and ought not to have been in contention by the finish.
They want to prove they are a much changed side from the one that survived by a gnat's whisker last season and they are certainly that in terms of personnel now.
Only two of the players who started that famous match – Shaun Wright-Phillips and Anton Ferdinand - began this one, even though only three and a half months have elapsed since that dramatic day.
Mark Hughes vowed never to be in a position where premier League survival was on the line as it was on May 13, and the signings since then have proved the sincerity of that intent.
But City of course became champions with that last gasp 3-2 win and even though Rangers have almost managed to eclipse the most heavily bankrolled club in the world during the transfer window - 12 new names are on the roster - a yawning gap still exists between the sides.
Rangers yielded possession and territory from the word go and defended deeply. It looked a recipe for failure, especially when City took the lead after only 16 minutes.
Yaya Toure pounced after Carlos Tevez' far post volley from a corner had been partly blocked by Bobby Zamora – only to fall invitingly to the Ivorian. Robert Green got a hand to Toure's left foot drive, but could not prevent it powering into the net.
That goal came not long after Edin Dzeko had seen a header cleared off the line by Fabio Da Silva.
There was some respite for Rangers when debutant Estaban Granero – watched from the stands by Jose Mourinho, his previous boss at Real Madrid – got in the visitors' first effort on goal after 24 minutes. But it was easy for Joe Hart to halt.
Soon after, City were back creating far greater danger at the other end when David Silva forced Green into a save from close range after wriggling past two defenders as he burst on to a Samir Nasri flick.
Then it needed a last-ditch tackle by Da Silva to deny Silva a goal after Aleksandar Kiolorav had opened up the Rangers defence with a long diagonal ball.
The Hoops were glad to go in only a goal down at the break, having not made much of an impact. But at least Fabio Da Silva again showed what a good signing he could be for Mark Hughes – making a nuisance of himself down the left flank at both ends of the pitch.
Soon after the break, Green – playing under immense pressure, with Julio Cesar waiting in the wings – had to be alert to keep out Carlos Tevez's angled drive, but City looked like they had more goals in them.
A clever pass slipped in by the silky Silva freed Pablo Zabaleta and his measured chip over the QPR keeper rebounded off the crossbar.
Against all expectations – and much as it was in that May day showdown – Rangers drew level when Zamora nodded in his third goal of the season from a yard on 59 minutes.
It came after Hart could only parry a deflected Andrew Johnson drive across the face of the goal.
But within two minutes the lead was restored when Tevez scampered to the left byline and hoisted a perfect cross for Dzeko to nod in from three yards.
To their credit, Rangers made it anxious for the champions towards the end. Ryan Nelsen had a chance to clip in from close range after sub Nedum Onuoha had headed a corner back across the face of the goal and a Granero free-kick curled towards the far post missed by a fraction.
But City had the last word and Rangers could hardly complain about that overall.
Line-up: Green; Bosingwa, Nelson, Ferdinand (Onuoha 68), Da Silva; Park, Faurlin (Dyer 72), Granero (Cisse 85), Wright-Phillips; Zamora, Johnson. Subs not used: Murphy, Derry, Mackie, Hoilett. Attendance: 45,579