• QPR captain elbows Carlos Tevez, then kicks Sergio Agüero
• Mark Hughes refuses to blame Barton for his actions
Joey Barton is facing a nine‑game ban after appearing to assault three Manchester City players during yet another shameful episode from the controversial midfielder.
The Queens Park Rangers player was sent off for violent conduct after elbowing Carlos Tevez in his side's defeat to City on Sunday. After receiving a red card Barton then kicked Sergio Agüero, before aiming a headbutt at City's captain, Vincent Kompany, following the ugly flashpoint. Barton had to be restrained from moving towards Mario Balotelli on the touchline before he finally headed down the tunnel.
The Football Association is almost certain to hand Barton a more severe punishment once it has received the match official's report. Yet Barton remained defiant afterwards and even admitted his actions were an attempt to get a rival player sent off, too. In a series of tweets, he wrote: "Can do nothing but apologise to the players and the fans. Still don't think it's a sending off. Tried to take 1 of their players with me." He added: "Still not my proudest moment but who gives a f*ck, we are safe..........and that is all that matters."
While Barton was unrepentant, his manager, Mark Hughes, admitted the officials got it right but refused to blame his captain for his actions, which could have cost his team their survival had Bolton Wanderers managed to beat Stoke City. As it was, Stoke fought back for a 2-2 draw, meaning Rangers stayed up despite their heroic defeat, which could have been an unlikely victory had it not been for two City goals in injury time.
"If we'd have pulled it off and actually won the game I think it would have been the greatest Premier League performance in history, because of the significance of the game and the attention focused on it. I'm immensely proud of the players and what they produced," said Hughes.
"It's a huge achievement, because people have no idea what I walked into, to be perfectly honest. And to be able to bring the group together and galvanise them, and you saw what they were able to produce today in unbelievable circumstances, I think it shows great credit to QPR."
Hughes vowed that they would not have to fight relegation again as long as he remains manager. "This club will never be in this situation again while I'm here managing the club so we'll be fine. We're going to build and we're going to create a club that's going to be really strong in the Premier League. That's the aim of everybody connected to QPR – we're going to enjoy the summer and there'll be a lot of hard work when we come back."
Regarding Barton's red card in the 55th-minute, Hughes said: "We were disappointed we lost Joey to a sending-off which shouldn't have happened. But that's the only negative on an otherwise fantastic day for QPR. He should have been sent off, without a shadow of a doubt. Absolutely."
He added: "I haven't seen the incident and I haven't spoken to Joey but people who saw it were saying he had to go. I haven't seen it myself, so I shouldn't comment but, like I say, it was a sending-off. There were a lot of people on the pitch and you don't want to see those scenes. But we didn't allow that to disrupt what we were trying to do and went up the other end of the pitch and scored a fantastic goal."
Pressed that if Bolton had won Barton might have cost QPR their Premier League status, Hughes said: "Yeah, but it didn't. I understand there will be a lot of comments about what happened and Joey and his behaviour but please forgive me, I'd rather just concentrate on what we did. I thought it was fantastic the way the guys stuck at it in unbelievable circumstances and we nearly did it."
Hughes, who was sacked as City manager before Roberto Mancini took over in December 2009, had kind words for his former club and their first title since 1968. "I congratulate them – it's a huge achievement for them and I'm sure there will be many more in the future," he said. "It was all the more exciting because of [the excitement] – the circumstances of the game I think was unbelievable – I don't think I've ever been involved in something like that, so it's a great day for everybody."
Hughes's sole disparagement of his side was that they relaxed when ahead. "The one criticism was that we understood that we were safe so maybe we just switched off for one second – that's all you need to do when you're up against a team like City. I'm a little bit flat – that's because I'm disappointed we got beat, so maybe we're a little bit greedy, so there you go."
Hughes, who replaced Neil Warnock in January, was asked what he had walked into then. "It was a club that didn't have things in place that you need to be successful, to have the support structures in place to be consistently good week-in, week-out, and all those things needed to be put in place, and a dressing room that was a little bit fragmented because there was a new manager. So we had to bring all that together and try to mend it quickly and thankfully that's what we did."
Pablo Zabaleta opened the scoring for City on 39 minutes before goals from Djibril Cissé on 48 minutes and Jamie Mackie in the 66th gave QPR the lead. As Manchester United were beating Sunderland 1-0, Roberto Mancini's men needed to score twice as the match entered the five minutes of added time.
Goals from Edin Dzeko and Agüero handed City the title and Hughes said: "At 2-1 I couldn't see City getting back into it, to be honest. I just felt they'd lost their direction and they were knocking aimless balls into our penalty box, just hoping something was going to break for them, and in the end it did. If you keep putting balls in decent areas, sometimes it works for you, and I think Roberto would have to admit he's been lucky today."