Cantona's cruel way to the top

QPR 1 Irwin 63 og Manchester United 1 Cantona 90 Attendance: 18,817

IN THEORY, with Manchester United chasing the Championship, this should scarcely have been a contest. In the glorious uncertainty of reality, with survival as potent motivation, Queen's Park Rangers stood the league table on its head before a goal by Eric Cantona in the third minute of injury time rescued a point for them and squeezed them to the top of the Premiership on goal difference.

Poor Rangers, whose chances of staying up receded further. Grittily they had clung on to a lead after being outplayed in the first half and it seemed Newcastle and Liverpool would also be celebrating their victory. Then Cantona popped up to head home Ryan Giggs's cross and it was United who were celebrating.

The portents for Queen's Park Rangers were not good; without a home win for three months - without one over United since 1988 - and with only one victory in their last 11 matches. United, on the other hand, arrived on a run of 10 consecutive wins.

The contrast was soon apparent, though QPR showed themselves ready for the battle with an aggressive opening in which Simon Barker and Ian Holloway snapped at the heels of Roy Keane and Brian McClair.

A better first touch from Trevor Sinclair might have seen him in for a shot at Peter Schmeichel, who was troubled soon after by Danny Dichio's header from Nigel Quashie's cross. Barker then headed Holloway's corner over the bar.

After this first flush, however, United's self-assurance began to assert itself. Some neat passing movements, often instigated by Cantona and carried on by Giggs's effervescent running, frequently pulled Rangers out of shape and their defence was left exposed by a midfield who were struggling to cope.

Giggs's run past David Bardsley and a shot that Jurgen Sommer beat out was the first glimpse of United's threat and chances followed at regular intervals. Cantona split the home defence with a cross-field pass that David Beckham turned goalwards, Sommer pushing it aside.

It was remarkable how Rangers survived to the interval, Sommer producing some of his best form of the season. Giggs sent in McClair, only for the American goalkeeper to save at his feet, and Sommer then halted another Giggs run.

Rangers brought on Andy Impey to replace Quashie at the start of the second half and his pace on the right immediately disconcerted and pressurised United, with Denis Irwin pleading from left-back for help.

Impey himself went close with a powerful drive from 20 yards, Schmeichel happy to see the ball sail just over his bar. Then the keeper gathered with relief when Kevin Gallen turned the ball into his arms after Dichio had headed down Holloway's corner.

That United were uncomfortable under pressure was evident when David May, replacing the injured Gary Pallister, up-ended Sinclair and was booked, along with Dichio, for protesting.

United brought on Paul Scholes in an attempt to win the match. Instead he was soon being asked to save it as Rangers took the lead their second-half showing deserved.

United, dragged to the left to counter Impey and Sinclair, left themselves open on the right and Holloway found Dichio in space. From the edge of the area he curled a shot past Schmeichel, Irwin inadvertently heading the ball into the net in trying to clear. Now the roles were reversed with United feeling the desperation, until Cantona breathed their late sigh of relief.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory