SERGIO Aguero’s late equaliser denied QPR a famous win from an enthralling encounter with Premier League champions Manchester City on Saturday night.
Aguero struck seven minutes from time after Martin Demichelis’ own goal looked to have handed Rangers victory after a breathtaking affair at Loftus Road.
Earlier, Charlie Austin’s fourth goal in three outings – having had two previous efforts disallowed – was cancelled out by Aguero, whose second of the night meant honours ended even.
Harry Redknapp made just one change from the team which travelled to Chelsea seven days ago. Bobby Zamora replaced Junior Hoilett as Rangers reverted to the same XI which defeated Aston Villa last time out at Loftus Road.
Meanwhile, Joey Barton and Nedum Onuoha made their respective returns from injury to face their former club from the substitutes bench.
It was City who started brightest under the lights in W12, where Aguero twice threatened inside the opening five minutes. The Argentinian’s pull-back found Samir Nasri whose shot was blocked by Richard Dunne, before Aguero flashed a long-range effort over following Eduardo Vargas’ misplaced pass in his own half.
The action soon swung up the other end, though, as Austin twice found the net inside a minute – only to see both efforts chalked off. The striker headed home Vargas’ cross from the right but was denied by an offside flag, before controversy ensued from the resulting free-kick.
Joe Hart’s attempted pass fell straight to Austin, who rifled the ball into the bottom corner only for referee Mike Dean to deem Hart had touched the ball twice, and subsequently ruled out the goal to the disbelief of the R’s players and faithful alike.
Austin again came agonisingly close to providing the opener soon after. The R’s number nine profited from Zamora’s knock down 10 yards out but saw his goal-bound shot diverted wide by Hart.
Austin wasn’t to be denied, though – finally breaking the deadlock on 21 minutes after latching onto Mauricio Isla’s deft through ball. The striker this time was ruled onside, taking a touch before sending his shot across Hart and inside the far corner.
The goal was no more than Austin and co. deserved for a rip-roaring start, though they were relieved to see Yaya Toure send a thunderous 25-yard drive inches over as City showed signs of a response on the half-hour mark.
Those signs culminated in 32nd-minute equaliser. Gael Clichy’s searching long ball was inch-perfect for Aguero, who shrugged off Steven Caulker’s attentions to sneak the ball inside Rob Green’s near post.
The goal swung the momentum back in City’s favour – twice coming close to a second before the break. Jesus Navas and Aguero combined before Toure blazed over from the edge of the area, while Green was called upon to claw away Aguero’s mishit volley from close-range.
There was still time in an enthralling opening 45 minutes for Austin to go close once again. After pouncing on another defensive slip, the striker thundered an effort goalwards which was somehow repelled by Hart.
Redknapp made a change at the interval, introducing Barton for Sandro – one of four R’s to be booked in the first half.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with both sides creating chances within five minutes of the re-start.
City’s twice threatened inside the opening 90 seconds, while Leroy Fer would have found the net but for Demichelis’ outstretched heel which deflected the midfielder’s goal-bound half-volley inches wide.
Rangers ramped up the pressure on the City backline as the hour-mark approached. Fernando’s last-ditch clearance prevented Zamora turning home Austin’s cross, before Vargas’ speculative volley inadvertently ricocheted wide off Caulker.
Manuel Pellegrini introduced Edin Dzeko in search of a decisive third goal, but the striker lasted barely four minutes on the pitch as injury ended the Bosnian’s evening early.
To compound the visitors’ misery, it was Rangers who found the net next. Austin’s inswinging cross from the right was aimed at Zamora’s, and found the bottom corner via Demichelis’ deflection.
Celebrations were almost cut short after Barton’s weak header allowed Aguero a clear sight of goal. The forward beat Green to the ball but Dunne came to the R’s rescue, clearing off the line.
Another goal-line clearance thwarted City ten minutes from time. James Milner – a second-half replacaement for Nasri – saw an effort headed clear by Caulker, while Toure’s follow-up shot was blocked by Green.
Pressure eventually told, though. Aguero brought down Toure’s long ball inside the box and, after evading Green’s lunge, found the net to end a pulsating evening in W12.