Welcome to our coverage of Manchester City versus Queens Park Rangers, a fixture which will always be defined by the stunning, jaw-dropping, fate-sealing and epochal goal-scoring feats of a City star. Stunning, jaw-dropping, fate-sealing and epochal... sounds good. So shall we watch it again?
Yep, it's Jamie Pollock's wonder strike in this match in April 1998, a quite outstanding feat of adroit juggling that makes Lionel Messi look like Carl Leaburn. And one which, the way the rest of that season panned out, effectively sent City down to the third tier of English football for the first time.
I've not forgotten anything obvious, have I? I do hope not.
What's rarely remembered about that infamous match in City's history, is that it was prefaced by a rammy in the Maine Road tunnel beteween Georgi Kinkladze and Vinnie Jones. The QPR manager Ray Harford, upon being quizzed about events after the game, delivered this deliciously concise precis: "There may have been a bit of a skirmish."
"There may have been a bit of a skirmish." That's nothing short of magnificent. No Twitter storm, no howls of manufactured outrage, no faux moralising. Just a couple of grown men, belting each other upside the head, then moving on. Everyone survived, the world kept spinning. Kinkladze scored after 40 seconds that day. "There may have been a bit of a skirmish." Poor old Joey Barton must look back and conclude that he's simply a man born out of time.
See, I've not forgotten about last season. How could I? What a game. What scenes. And how typically City. It was the second 3-2 of the season between those teams, too. Another, please!
So City became champions - 14 years equals one long time alright - while QPR are regrouping after a scrape with relegation last season. Both clubs purchased 908 players yesterday, so exactly who's eligible and who'll be picked is anybody's guess. We'll find out soon enough, no need to panic, the world will keep spinning.
Kick off: 5.30pm.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Silva, Toure, Rodwell, Nasri, Tevez, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Sinclair, Clichy, Toure, Balotelli, Razak.
Queens Park Rangers: Green, Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Da Silva, Wright-Phillips, Granero, Park, Faurlin, Zamora, Johnson.
Subs: Murphy, Derry, Cisse, Mackie, Onuoha, Dyer, Hoilett.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
The teams are out, right here, right now! Manchester City in their classic powder blue, Rangers in their not-so-classic-but-they're-away-so-it-doesn't-matter red and white. A seismic event? No, a common-or-garden Premier League fixture. But that hasn't stopped Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist - that's right, Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist - writing in from his desk at the UWI Seismic Research Centre, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. (I'm already weak at the knees.) "Please don't become one of those journalists who uses epicentre as a stronger version of centre," writes Rod. "The point inside the Earth from which the shock waves radiate is the hypocentre, which can be up to 650km deep. The epicentre is the point on the Earth's surface above the hypocentre, hence the 'apparently' in your dictionary definition. It makes for a poor metaphor in most cases. That Joey Barton, he's right off the Richter Scale." Heh. I've been hauled over coals for this by the Guardian's readers' editor for this before, but having nicked that definition from dictionary.com, I decided I didn't care, the pursuit of a cheap photo caption being more important to me. But it's not every day that we get emails from volcano seismologist. More to the point, it's not every day that we get emails from Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist. So, Rod, please accept my humble apologies. If I promise never to use it incorrectly again, will you still be our pal?
I missed the kick off, writing all that. Sorry. But I just received an email from a Volcano Seismologist! I wonder if, in everyday reality, it's an incredibly boring job? Perhaps. But it sounds right up there with the Little Boys Dreams, alongside astronaut, train driver and
minute-by-minute reporter pop star. So, y'know.
4 min: Nothing's happened yet, you'll be pleased to hear. I'm pleased to know it, because I'd have been in all sorts of trouble if a couple of goals had flown in. Anyway, City win a couple of corners down the left. From the second, Nasri finds the head of Dzeko, who flicks one well wide of the target. QPR have hardly touched the ball yet.
6 min: A Volcano Seismologist, though.
8 min: This is all City at the moment. No real tempo to the game. Tevez and Nasri combine down the right, then Zabaleta flicks a ball down the inside-right channel into the area. The ball hits the hand of Faurlin, and there's a muted shout for a penalty, but come off it folks. The referee, quite rightly, rules that the QPR player could have done nowt about that.
10 min: QPR are only getting to touch the ball when City accidentally pass it out of play. City aren't doing a whole lot with all their possession yet, but will be happy enough with the way this has started. "How was the 3-2 on the last day of last season typically City?" asks John Barry. "They won!"
12 min: Another corner for City down the left. The ball again falls onto the forehead of Dzeko, who powers a header towards the bottom right. Green, on his final performance for QPR, is beaten all ends up, but Fabio is on hand to hack off the line. Yaya Toure should still slam the loose ball home, but is crowded out of it, and the resulting corner is wasted. So close to the opener, though. Dzeko is looking pretty damn dangerous.
13 min: Rodwell, trying to mop up a loose ball in midfield, has a strange rush of blood and nearly hoofs a looping ball into the top-left corner of his own goal from 40 yards. Hart, backtracking like billy-o, tips over in the style of Bruce Grobbelaar from Graeme Sharp in the 1986 FA Cup final. The keeper grins at his team-mate, who has the decency to look very sheepish. Nothing comes from the corner.
16 min: GOAL!!! Manchester City 1-0 QPR. A couple of corners to City, this time down the right. The second is sent deep, where Tevez looks to Mark Hughes a scissor kick home from a tight angle. The ball's blocked, but balloons to Yaya Toure, eight yards out and level with the left-hand post. Toure wallops the ball into the net for what I'm guessing won't be the last goal this afternoon.
20 min: QPR string a couple of passes together. They go nowhere, but at least some of the sting has been taken out of the game in the wake of City's opener. Let's see how long they can keep the champs at bay, because Mancini's men look in the mood this afternoon. But then, when do they not these days? "When I queried your use of 'epicentre' a couple of years ago you had a right go at me," sobs Mark Taylor, "but then I'm not a volcano seismologist." Well now I just feel like a right heel. Will you forgive me too? Though in fairness, reading that back, I've spent most of PEDANT'S CORNER setting things up so I could berate myself for being a tired old hack who doesn't care if what he's writing makes sense or not. The more things change, etc.
22 min: Tevez, Silva and Kolarov are all running down the inside-left channel, one behind the other behind the other, rather like a rugby team advancing on the tryline. Kolarov reaches the byline and looks to pull back the killer pass to Tevez, but
plays it forward, scrum to QPR passes it square, allowing QPR to clear.
25 min: QPR are camped out in their own area. They're sort of holding City at bay, but there's a palpable sense that another goal could be coming along any minute. City are enjoying 70% possession. "Someone who shares a name with a rockstar probably doesn't need any further advantages," begins professional blog-botherer and Glorious Glasgow Rangers fan Ryan Dunne, "but can Rod Stewart confirm that, when trying to impress the ladies, he uses the line 'I'm a professional volcanologist, and I'm ready to rock your world'? That's what I'd do."
27 min: City are trying to walk the ball into the net at the moment. You'll not be surprised to hear that Nasri, as a graduate of the Arsenal Finishing School, is in the middle of a lot of baroque nonsense in the QPR area. He has a shimmy, then Silva has a shake and shot, then Nasri tries to thread one home from an angle of silly degrees. All of that was from very close range, and City really should be two goals to the good by now. At least.
30 min: Half an hour since kick off, and Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist, hasn't answered back.
31 min: I just wanted a friend who is a Volcano Seismologist. Sad now. I'll not be trusting dictionary.com again any time soon!
33 min: A QPR free kick down the left. Granero swings a deep ball towards Nelsen, but Hart comes out to punch clear in the clean manner. He's had little to do, the City keeper, but when he's been required to work, he's been solid and alert.
34 min: Pass of the match so far from Kolarov, deep on the left, raking a diagonal ball forward for Silva, releasing the Spanish Euro 2012 hero down the inside-right channel. Silva should do much better than he does, for he hesitates on the edge of the area then half-scuffs a shot which is blocked and then cleared. That should have been testing Green at the very least.
36 min: Tevez bombs and bustles inside from the right. He flicks the ball inside to Rodwell, who enters the area and flicks the ball towards Faurlin. For the second time, there's a penalty claim against the Argentinian, the ball striking his hand at close range, but for the second time the referee is quite rightly having none of it. Meanwhile there's a judo bout going on between Nelsen and Tevez, but that's merely a sideshow. We play on.
38 min: Brilliant refereeing by Chris Foy here. Dzeko is scythed down in the centre circle by Nelsen, but the official allows Silva to stream off with the ball before rolling it on down the left flank to Nasri, who is in acres. The move breaks down as a result of some over-elaboration between Nasri and Silva. When play eventually stops, Foy has a quiet word with Nelsen, whose challenge was agricultural and plain wrong, yet honest; he was just a bit late. That word suffices, a sensible decision, no need for a card. The crowd don't quite agree, mind you.
42 min: A corner for QPR! Granero is once again the man over the set piece, and once more Hart punches it clear as it comes in from the left. The ball's shuttled back wide left to Granero, who shanks a dismal cross into the stand behind. "Do you know what would be really wonderful?" asks Cort McMurray, who is about to answer his own question. "It would be really wonderful to learn that Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist, is THE Rod Stewart, sort of the way that Brian May, Astrophysicist, is the same as Brian May, Queen Guitarist Who Wore A Vaguely Wizardy Outfit To Play A Solo At The Olympics. I can well see Rod, dressed in spandex tights and a Scotland jersey, taking notes in Geology class, hanging out at the student cafeteria, dating the Freshman class..."
44 min: Tevez is this close to releasing Dzeko into the area with a eye-of-needle diagonal ball from the right. But no.
45 min: Kolarov is booked for cynically hauling Wright-Phillips back by the shoulder, as the wee man looks to break clear down the right. He has no argument.
HALF TIME: Manchester City 1-0 QPR. How City have scored only one goal will be beyond most people's rational ken. But there's the scoreline. Still plenty of time for those other four goals these two teams are in the habit of serving up. Don't go away!
HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT DESIGNED IN A PATHETICALLY TRANSPARENT ATTEMPT TO ELICIT SOME SORT OF RESPONSE FROM ROD STEWART, VOLCANO SEISMOLOGIST:
[Disclaimer: no truck drivers were injured in the making of this video]
And we're off again! Off, off, off, that's what we are. And it's QPR who send us on our way. No changes for either side. "I Don't Want to Talk About It but Have I Told You Lately that I have Reason to Believe that if Freud was a Seismologist he would contend that Joey's parents would be the hypocentre, leaving Joey to fulfill the role of epicentre and your analogy intact," puns David Johnston-Raw. "Just Sailing."
47 min: Dzeko slaloms down the right before sliding a ball forwards and inside to Tevez, who pelts it goalwards from a tight angle. Green is behind it all the way, and is now the owner of two warm gloves. Speaking of clothes: Jose Mourinho is in the stands, sizing up City ahead of the Group of Death in Big Cup. And he's wearing quite an outfit, a powder blue polo shirt combined with a slightly lighter powder blue linen jacket. There are few people who could get away with such a combination of pastels, writes fashion journalist Scott Murray, but Jose is one of them.
50 min: Upon being innocently clattered by Kolarov as the two come together down the left, Ferdinand is down receiving some treatment. Not sure whether this is serious or not. The big man's taken a clatter to the back of the head, I think. Hopefully he's just feeling a wee bit woozy, and will be up and about soon. But QPR have the stretcher on, and are taking no chances.
51 min: There was no intent from Kolarov there, and his attempts to make good with an apology are accepted. Ferdinand happily walks off the pitch, and it looks like he'll continue, but he's rubbing the back of his neck and grimacing quite a lot. The City fans, previously vocal in the chippy fashion given the QPR defender's brother's allegiances, applaud him warmly.
53 min: Ferdinand's back on, and just in time to see Silva slip Zabaleta into the area down the right. Zabaleta takes one step after the ball, opens his body, and sidefoots a simply wonderful curler towards the top left. Not that wonderful, City fans will be sad to hear, as the ball clatters off the underside of the bar and out. A lovely attempt, and so unlucky. City really should be winning this by some margin now.
56 min: City are passing it around a lot. It's the new fashion. Eventually Dzeko is sprung clear down the middle, but he's offside, and sprays a useless shot miles left anyway.
57 min: Ferdinand is still looking a bit ropey. He's looking over to his bench with puppy-dog eyes, and being signally ignored by Mark Hughes. But it'll be no surprise if he's replaced soon enough.
58 min: Zamora's been As A Mouse, but he gets his bandaged head onto a left-wing Fabio cross. His effort is well over the bar, but that's something, which is better than nothing, for QPR.
59 min: GOAL!!! Manchester City 1-1 QPR. Johnson skates in from the left, a really determined run. He bustles across the front of the box, then unleashes a superb lash straight at Hart, who can only parry the ball into the air, such is the power in the shot. Zamora is the only man following up, and heads into the empty net. How is this game level? No idea. But it is.
61 min: GOAL!!! Manchester City 2-1 QPR. This was so simple, and what a reaction from City. Kolarov picks up the pace down the left. He slides a ball in to Tevez, who reaches the byline then pulls a ball back to the near post, where Dzeko heads home. "That's why we're champions," sing the home crowd, gloating a wee bit, but it is for the first time since 1968. Can you blame them?
64 min: Anyway, never mind those two goals in one minute and 38 seconds, because Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist is back! "Sorry, but I haven't been following the MBM because I've been outside watching the volcano. Who's winning?" Never mind that, is somebody keeping an eye on that volcano? It'll boil over!
67 min: Ferdinand is replaced by former City charge Onuoha. "Oh, Scott, did you have to link to that epicentre pedantry MBM?" burbles Mac Millings. "It includes what may be the very worst of the very many terrible emails I've sent you over the years, and that's not even the one in which I babble about violating pedants with a banjo."
68 min: Wright-Phillips cuts inside from the right and has a dig. For a second, City were all over the shop, and wide open, but the little guy takes a second too long, and he's closed down.
69 min: Silva releases Dzeko down the inside-left, but the striker is offside, and he screws his shot wide right of goal anyway.
71 min: There's not a whole lot going on at the City of Manchester Stadium at the moment, because Onuoha and Kolarov clatter into each other down the left. Both men stay down. Then get up. Mark Hughes begins shouting and ranting at the fourth official, but what's his point? There didn't seem to be much in that. Anyway, Rod Stewart, Volcano Seismologist. Here's what he's up to. Will you look at that! "Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, More fun to watch than Man City v. QPR." You got that damn straight, Rod.
72 min: Dyer comes on for Faurlin.
74 min: Rodwell is booked for a late slide from behind on Granero. "Isn't there a word for when a volcano 'boils over'?" wonders David Johnston-Raw. Like when my pan of porridge erupts?
76 min: QPR win a corner down the left. The ball's swung in deep, where Onuoha heads back across goal for Nelsen. The defender attempts to contort his body in mid-air to Mark Hughes a volley home, but can't manage to keep the ball on target, his effort sailing off to the right. That was a real chance. Manchester City let in two goals all the time these days, it's in the rules, so QPR will be looking to get on their nerves here.
78 min: Now it's a free kick for QPR down the left. Granero swings it in, and everyone misses it, most notably Hart, then Lescott, then Nelsen sliding in at the far post. The ball sails out wide of goal. The Etihad is a nervous sponsored stadium.
81 min: Silva, who has been quiet by his standards yet has still managed to play some killer passes, is replaced by Milner. "Anyone else think Rod should get to host a Volcano: Live! MBM on the Guardian?" asks Ryan Dunne. "I'd read it!" Well, you say that, Ryan, but you might withdraw your goodwill, because he's refusing to answer your earlier question about chat-up lines (25 min). "I'm a Hibee by birth and cannot give any help in life to a Rangers fan, however Glorious," he writes. "Your new pal, Rod. PS: I'm single (re the Dunne question, not our new-found friendship)."
83 min: Rangers (these ones, not Ryan Dunne's lot) are pushing City back here. Dyer is given far too much time on the edge of the area, and manages to get a shot away. It's somehow blocked before it reaches Hart. City, and their fans, are very nervous.
85 min: Zamora is booked for backchat. Or perhaps hacking away at Tevez. I reckon it's the patter that's done for him, but let's face it, what difference does it make if I'm wrong?
86 min: The elaborately coiffured Djinkin' Djibril Cisse is on for Granero, who favours a more shaggy, indie-pop guitarist style.
88 min: Johnson makes space for himself down the left and looks for Cisse in the centre, but the big man has never been about crashing headers, and is easily beaten to the ball by Kompany, who is rather more schooled in the art. Meanwhile Ryan Dunne is not letting this lie. "Can Rod confirm whether he and colleagues are ever tempted to recreate the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel from Revenge of the Sith, or Frodo up Mount Doom from Return of the King while they're up to volcano business?" he asks. "That's what I'd do." Yes, we assumed that's what you would do.
89 min: A final change for City, who swap Nasri for Rasak.
90 min: There will be five additional minutes of this. Nothing much ever happens in injury time between these two teams, does it?
90 min +1: Dzeko dances down the left and is eventually pulled down by Wright-Phillips. No mean feat. Yaya Toure stands over the free kick, then plays a cheeky reverse ball down the wing for Kolarov, who wastes possession.
90 min +2: Tevez goes on a long raking run towards the box, but loses the ball when he gets there. But never mind ...
90 min +3: GOAL!!! Manchester City 3-1 QPR. The ball's worked out to the right. Dzeko has a shot. It's going miles wide left, but Tevez sticks out a leg and deflects the ball into the bottom-left corner past a rooted and wrongfooted Green.
90 min +4: But apart from two title-winning goals last season, and another goal this time round, nothing much ever happens in injury time between these two teams, does it?
FULL TIME: Manchester City 3-1 QPR. Milner breaks down the right and pulls the ball across the face of goal, but Bosingwa clears. And that's that. The right result, by the right margin, but how City were required to work for it after coasting for so long. "I used to see Mt Fuji twice a day commuting from Shinjuku to Tachikawa," writes Sean Kilgannon. "Good luck with a Volcano Watch MBM. Not a lot happens most centuries. Like a rugby match."