Manchester City. .2
Flitcroft 56, Walsh 58
FOR nearly an hour at Loftus Road yesterday very little happened. From then on there was very little that did not happen. 'A crazy game,' was how Brian Horton, the Manchester City manager, described it.
The match ended with City down to nine men after two sendings-off and Rangers doing everything but score in a frantic attempt to retrieve a situation partly of their own making. Both sides had cause to feel hard done by - City because the referee seemed to deal with them rather harshly, Rangers because on any other day their efforts would surely have been better rewarded.
Drama there was plenty of; quality rather less. Both teams suffered from similar shortcomings - a paucity of team-work which rendered good individual contributions irrelevant. For Rangers, with only one win all season, the need to address the problems is the more urgent, especially as they are about to lose Les Ferdinand for three matches because of suspension.
But before that happens, they will have to get over this game, whose character started to change when Garry Flitcroft headed City in front after 56 minutes. Rangers had made the better chances up to then, and looked capable of recovering.
Two minutes later, however, City went two up when Tony Roberts, the Rangers goalkeeper, made the mistake of taking a second touch in dealing with a back pass. His eventual clearance was charged down by Paul Walsh and the ball ricocheted into the net.
Another three minutes, and another piece of goalkeeping misjudgement - this time by City's Andy Dibble - allowed Rangers back into the game. Conceding a free-kick for handling just outside the area, he was then beaten by Clive Wilson's low shot.
With 18 minutes left, Dibble sped out to challenge Ferdinand, some 20 yards off his line, and although he appeared to win the ball cleanly, the linesman flagged for a two-footed tackle and out came the referee's red card.
Rangers sensed their chance, all the more so when Richard Edghill, booked in the first half for a tackle on Trevor Sinclair, repeated the offence. Unfortunately for Rangers, there were still enough City men left on the pitch to thwart them. They hit the post, they hit the bar, they played their best football of the match. But the damage was beyond repair.