Barker snaps City's spirit

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers 1

Barker 31

Manchester City 0

Attendance: 14,212

THREE games into the Premiership season and already this match had the smell of a relegation encounter about it. QPR were at least able to claim that they deserved their first goal and their first points of the season won by the best move of the match. But City, wracked by injuries, showed very little cohesion and cannot afford to fall behind in what is a foreshortened season. Their disarray here was marked by three niggly bookings and the late dismissal of their young substitute Michael Brown.

QPR had hoped to give a full debut to their pounds 1.25m signing from Borussia Dortmund, Ned Zelic, but the Australian forward had picked up a knock in mid-week, and with their other big signing Simon Osborn on the bench, Rangers were able to field a team whose shirt numbers, remarkably, went from 1 to 11.

And the two that caught the eye throughout were Daniele Dichio and Trevor Sinclair. Dichio's gangling awkwardness and headed flicks had City's makeshift defence always uneasy, while Sinclair's pace and trickery always had the established Terry Phelan at full stretch.

But too often their work was lost in isolation without adequate support from midfield. Dichio and Sinclair did combine early in the first half to set up a header for Simon Barker but the diminutive midfielder was just wide.

Barker made amends just after the half-hour scoring neatly after an uncharacteristically graceful passing move had unstitched the City defence. Kevin Gallen's neat lay-off to Ian Holloway was matched by a through ball to Barker who beat Eike Immel with a low drive from the edge of the box.

It said something for City's overall contribution that their closest efforts came from defenders - Kit Symons missed in front of goal after Tony Roberts had flapped at a corner and Alan Kernaghan flicked a header over the bar.

The Mancunians awoke from their slumber early in the second half but with Paul Walsh and Uwe Rosler making little impact it was no surprise to see them turn to Niall Quinn. But it was Dichio who stood out as the game flickered away.

A volley drew a smart save from Immel and he should have done better with a diving header from David Bardsley's cross. Never mind. The three points belong to Rangers - and they may well look like six by the end of the season.

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