QUEENS Park Rangers held reigning Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City to a 0-0 draw tonight at Loftus Road.
An outstanding display from QPR’s Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar kept second place City at bay as a tremendous work ethic handed Harry Redknapp’s side another precious point.
And the R’s could have even pulled off a victory with good chances falling to both Loic Remy and Adel Taarabt in treacherous conditions in W12.
Rangers reverted to a more familiar looking line-up for City’s visit from the side that lost 4-2 in the FA Cup to Milton Keynes Dons three days earlier. Cesar, Hill, Derry, Taarabt, Onuoha, Nelsen and Mbia all started whilst striker Loic Remy was handed his Loftus Road debut. On the bench boss Redknapp took the unusual decision to include two goalkeepers amongst his seven options with Rob Green and Brian Murphy both handed places.
Man City squandered the first chance nine minutes in when a David Silva corner from the right forced R’s keeper Julio Cesar to punch clear from underneath his own crossbar. His fisted clearance only went as far as defender Joleon Lescott but the City centre-back volleyed over from 10-yards in an early let-off for the home side.
With the wind continuing to swirl around Loftus Road the crossbar was all that separated City from taking the lead in the 20th minute. Sergio Aguero down the left found Silva and the Spaniards precise cross into the R’s box picked out the head of captain Pablo Zabaleta, who watched on as his header from 10-yards rattled the woodwork.
Just for good measure moments later Man City’s Javi Garcia unleashed a stinging drive from 40-yards that whistled inches wide of a at full stretch Cesar and into the R’s fans behind the Loft end goal. Play switched to the other end and Remy was presented with his first opportunity to test the visitors when Granero’s quickly taken free-kick played the Frenchman in but his shot was deflected behind for a corner that amounted to nothing.
Carlos Tevez did manage to get the ball in the net for City in the 33rd minute but it was disallowed by referee Phil Dowd. Granero had blocked James Milner on the edge of the QPR box but the ball looped up and over the R’s back four to the Argentinian striker Tevez who was clearly offside before volleying past Cesar.
QPR were then handed a fantastic chance to take the lead on the counterattack. Rangers broke from inside their own penalty area, with Taarabt racing away. A step over from the Moroccan magician sold Clichy and with the goal in his sights a superb save from England keeper Joe Hart denied Rangers a first half lead five minutes before the break.
Having just witness one fantastic save it was Cesar’s chance at the other end to show why he has just been recalled to the Brazil squad. Mbia lost possession for QPR in midfield to Gareth Barry who immediately switched the ball out to the left for Tevez. The City forward returned the ball to Barry, who struck a thunderous effort from 18-yards that forced Cesar to make a strong two handed save to his right.
Rangers started the second half strongly as they continued to hustle their opponents and Loic Remy signalled his intent just after the hour mark as he raced onto Taarabt’s flick before curling an effort over the angle from the left of the 18-yard box.
Cesar showed great hands to hold onto a Silva strike from the edge of the box before QPR survived an opportunity for Aguero as he sliced over unmarked inside the Rangers box following Zabaleta’s nod down.
Seven minutes from time and Cesar had the home faithful singing his name once more. Silva swept the ball wide for City to substitute Edin Dzeko who picked out the World Cup winner in the box but Cesar was equal - saving to his left.
City then had a penalty shout turned down after Onuoha’s challenge on Scott Sinclair but referee Phil Dowd waved the claims away. That came as a huge relief as Rangers held on for a well deserved share of the spoils as they narrowed the gap to safety to four points.