Theo Walcott scored the fastest Premier League goal of the season to give Arsenal a slender victory
That's stumps, ladies and gentlemen. There goes that Loftus Road hoodoo! This game was won by Theo Walcott 89 minutes and 40 seconds ago. Quick work. The rest of it wasn't particularly memorable, like Arsenal will care: they're now third, two points clear of Chelsea and Tottenham, though the former have two games in hand, the latter one. This tussle for the final two Champions League spots is going to the wire.
90 min +4: There's a rare old schoolyard hackabout in the Arsenal box involving Taarabt, Remy and Mertesacker. It's the Arsenal man who wins the battle, and though it looked for a microsecond like a dramatic end unfolding, it's nothing of the sort.
90 min +3: Fabio comes on for Traore.
90 min +2: Traore is rolling around on the floor with cramp.
90 min +1: Rosicky off, Vermaelen on.
90 min: Arsenal are playing possession football now. The clock's running down smoothly. Four added minutes to go, and they'll have reclaimed fourth spot from Spurs, albeit having played a game more. And then it's a nice ten-day break before their next match.
89 min: Wilshere totters on for the departing Cazorla.
88 min: Zamora tries to lash a dipping shot past a wandering Szczesny from 40-odd yards. Nope.
86 min: QPR pass it around awhile in the Arsenal half. It's a strange passage of play, the ball shifted from wing to wing 40 yards out. But the minute Rangers look to spring forward, a red shirt quickly springs forward and intercepts. Arsenal are perfectly happy with the way this is panning out now.
84 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on for Podolski.
82 min: Just tempting fate there for your leisure and pleasure. Suddenly QPR come to life, Zamora tearing down the right, cutting back, and sending a low cross into the area. The ball pinballs out to Remy on the left, the striker taking a first-time steer towards the bottom-right corner. It's a fantastic snap shot, and it's met by an equally wonderful save from Szczesny, who gets down quickly to palm the ball around the post. Remy's a proper player, isn't he.
81 min: It's petering out, this.
78 min: A busy little minute. Remy goes down in the Arsenal area under a light gust of wind near Koscielny. The referee's having none of it, and I'm not sure if the Rangers faithful were screaming for a penalty or bellylaughing there. Then, up the other end, Jenas is booked for a late slide on Rosicky. And finally Taarabt comes on for the wholly useless Park. If all moments were like this! I'd need six fingers on each hand, for a start.
77 min: Walcott sends a swerver straight down Green's throat. Green very nearly sicks it up, but eventually gathers his parry. "Surely this is the first match in a while that really matters for QPR's famously mercenary players," writes Robin Hazlehurst. "Now they're definitely down they can focus on putting themselves in the shop window. Now the club's Premier League status is jiggered they have their own Premier League status to think about. If I were Arsenal I'd be worried here." I'm not sure they can even be bothered to do that. Perhaps they're concerned about looking crass. They're not concerned about looking crass, are they.
76 min: Arsenal come straight back at Rangers, though, Monreal making good down the left before swinging it in towards Podolski. Hill does fairly well to hack out for a corner with the striker waiting to hammer home from close range. Nothing comes of the set piece, but Arsenal are beginning to turn the screw again, the first half hour revisited.
75 min: It was a very dangerous position in theory, I'll stand by that judgement all day long.
74 min: Cazorla steals the ball off a snoozing Park, 25 yards out. Park responds by immediately bundling into the back of the Arsenal maestro, conceding a free kick, just outside the D, dead in the centre. Now this is a very dangerous position.
71 min: Walcott and Ben Haim battle under a high ball. Walcott wins all hands down, turning the defender on the edge of the area and looking for the bottom left with a snapshot. Green gets down brilliantly to turn the ball out for a corner. A great save. The set piece comes to naught.
68 min: Hello, this is a bit better from the away side. Cazorla sashays down the inside left, drifts inside, and unleashes a riser straight at Green. Hell, why not. Green beats the ball away, a decent effort behind a swerving and oscillating shot.
67 min: Ramsey rolls a ball down the inside left into the area for Podolski, who turns and wins a corner. Cazorla takes. Green flaps under the high ball, but wins a free kick for
not very much obstruction. Arsenal really aren't doing very much up front.
64 min: Derry is booked for a late lunge on, at and all over Rosicky. He can have no complaints, and in fairness, doesn't harp on about it when the inevitable card is flashed in his face.
62 min: Park hoicks a looper into the Arsenal box from the left. Zamora, level with the right-hand post, heads the ball back across goal, but no Rangers player can take control, never mind take a shot. Arsenal manage to clear, but that doesn't stop Arsene Wenger paying homage to this country's Saturday evening light entertainment tradition with a Special Jig along the touchline. He's not happy with Arsenal, and no wonder, they've gone seriously off the boil since the half-hour mark.
60 min: In theory, it was very dangerous. In theory.
59 min: Monreal is booked for a cynical tug on Townsend's left shoulder as the QPR guy races past him with ease down the right. That'll be a dangerous place to take a free kick from, too, just to the right of the Arsenal area.
58 min: A lull. The first of the day, pretty much. "Though I don't expect it, I'd like to see QPR get something from this one just to make the race for the fourth-place trophy even more bum squeakingly awesome," hums J.R. in Illinois. "If QPR can't get at least a point then I'm rooting for some other kind of entertainment. A punch up between a couple QPR players? How about Harry bringing on Taarabt, then taking him off and the camera following Taarabt right down the tunnel, out of the stadium, and at least as far as the bus stop?" And imagine if his Oyster card has run out of cash, and the driver refuses to change a £50 note. The possibilities here are endless.
54 min: Rosicky dances down the inside right and hesitates, passing up a wonderful opportunity to have a shot at the hapless Green from close range. Why didn't he shoot? QPR go straight up the other end and show him how to do it, Townsend larruping a heat-seeking missile towards Szczesny's noggin from 30 yards. The Arsenal keeper manages to punch the arrowing shot away, not totally convincingly. That was close.
52 min: A mesmerising period of play by Arsenal. Ramsey, Arteta, Rosicky and Sagna ping it about hither and yon for the best part of a minute, back and forth along the front of the Rangers box. No end product, though, which is pretty much Arsenal's season in microcosm.
50 min: Arsenal finally turn up after the break, and Walcott's set clear through the centre. Ah, though not quite: Traore is across quickly to get his body in the way of Walcott and ball, ushering the former out of harm's way, and the latter towards the keeper Green. Good stuff at both ends from Rangers so far since the restart.
48 min: This is a really lively start to the half by Rangers. Townsend jiggles down the right and reaches the byline, where he digs out a looping cross to the far post. Remy's bombing in with an idea of heading the ball goalwards from close range, but Szczesny fingertips away before man and orb can meet. That was a majestic piece of goalkeeping by the Arsenal man, one of those efforts which initially looks like a bit of a flap, but in fact is a brilliant piece of last-ditch denial.
47 min: Rangers win a free kick 25 yards out, level with the left-hand post. Jenas swings a clever ball to the far post, where Derry is standing all alone and able to head back across into the centre. There are hooped shirts in there, but Rosicky is the first to latch onto the bouncing ball, and he buggers off with it, averting an equaliser his express intent.
Rangers set the ball rolling again, kicking towards that school and BBC Television Centre, sort of, I think, but don't quote me on it. They've made one change: Mbia is off, the old warhorse Derry on.
The half peters out. Rangers are fortunate to be just the single goal down, in terms of possession if nothing else, but Arsenal took their foot off the gas towards the end of the half and allowed the home side back into it. Sort of. Anyway, the Rs can salvage a little bit of hope from that, which if the first half is anything to go by, means they'll probably be three down before the 47 minute mark. Can Harry turn this around?
44 min: Speaking of fists, Remy swings his, backwards, on the blindside, into Monreal's grille. The Arsenal defender makes a song of it, accompanied with a wee jig, but the referee can't be bothered to respond, two grown men and all. He shoots a look of pity at the pair of them, and that's that.
42 min: A free kick to QPR 25 yards out, to the left of goal. Townsend looks for the far top corner, but the ball's always curling out to the right, and Szczesny has it covered all the way. The Arsenal keeper hasn't had a save to make, but at least the home side have made a fist of it for the last 10 minutes or so.
41 min: Ben Haim's hell-why-not rake has hopefully inspired his team-mates to do likewise. It does rather look like it's the only way QPR are going to score. Anyway, Remy drifts in from the left and unleashes a dart towards the top right. It's always wide and high, but not that wide and high. And at least it's allowed the home fans to emit a few OOHs and AAHs, sounds less distressing to the neutral's ear than the uneasy silence of existential angst.
40 min: Arsenal again with the triangles. Put that pint of gin down, Felix! At least wait until half time.
36 min: A little something for the home fans to shout about at last, before Felix gets the gin and Special 40% ABV Juniper Mixer Drink out. Ben Haim goes on a Yaya Toure-esque leggy romp into the Arsenal half, pretty much straight down the middle of the pitch, then decides to launch a rising David Luiz-like arrow towards the top right from 35 yards. It's hopelessly optimistic, and it damn nearly comes off, but Szczesny is positioned well and can pluck the ball from the sky.
32 min: Yes, QPR have finally turned up, half an hour in. A couple of quickfire triangles in front of the Arsenal area go nowhere, but the thought's the thing. Still, overall their performance so far has been little short of dreadful. Good thing, too, because it's inspired this beautiful cry for help from Felix Wood, who has decided to embrace despair before it totally consumes him: "We are so utterly inept I really do think the FA should start taking points away from us, else we'll never learn."
30 min: This is better by Park, though, who spins on a thruppeny bit, 12 yards out, level with the right-hand post, and slaps a low shot for the bottom right-hand corner. It's deflected out for a corner, which is a waste of time, but this is a wee bit better from the home side.
28 min: And yet, after all this, QPR could be level. Such is football. Zamora lays off to Park down the inside right. The erstwhile European Cup finalist, romping into the area at speed, hoicks a hopeless effort miles over the bar and wide right. That is simply appalling.
26 min: Rosicky twists and turns in the middle of the Rangers half. Suddenly he shifts the ball slightly to the right for Walcott, who has his back to goal on the right-hand edge of the D, but turns and wallops a low shot off the base of the right-hand post. Green being the goalkeeper and lying prone on the deck, having dived after the shot and missed it, you'd normally expect the ball to rebound off the woodwork, run along his spine making a cartoon xylophone trill, and bound back into the goal. But this time he's fortunate, and Hill can take care of the loose ball by blootering it clear.
24 min: Another run by Podolski down the left. He fires a low ball across the face of goal, and Walcott is very close to back-flicking a fancy effort goalwards. He misses the ball altogether, though it would be a harsh observer who wrote that off as an air shot.
23 min: Podolski makes a royal nuisance of himself down the left, and continues the bother as he enters the area. He can't quite get face on to the goal, though, and he's hassled out of it. "One must stress that Harry Redknapp's man management was not to blame for the early goal," writes a tinder-dry Sasu Laaksonen. "It was probably Steve Cotterill's fault." It must be quite difficult to type out an email while your eyebrows are twanging up and down in such an ironic frenzy that they should come with a strobe warning for epileptics. A bit like patting the top of your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, so congratulations to Sasu for keeping it together.
22 min: Arsenal are playing a lot of keep ball, without really taking it anywhere. They'll be happy enough to play with patience. "I've always thought Arsenal's version should be called tiki-tiki," opines Mark Penn, apropos this very subject.
20 min: "Shall we sing a song for you?" trill the Arsenal faithful. There's no response from the Rangers crowd. They're probably just wondering whether to request some Nick Drake, or perhaps something from the Leonard Cohen songbook.
17 min: A couple of half-chances at either end. Walcott looks to turn and take a punt 12 yards out, but while he's afforded time to bring the ball down, he isn't given a second to spin round and get his shot away. Then Zamora is nearly released into the area down the inside right, but the pass from Jenas finds him a yard offside. Still, that's a little something for the home troopers to build on.
14 min: Jenas flicks a ball down the inside right channel for Zamora to chase, but Szczesny is out quickly to claim at the edge of his area. There really isn't much atmosphere at all, the home fans are slipping into a mellow funk, and we might not be able to snap them out of it.
11 min: Barcelona might be doing their level best to destroy tiki-taka at the moment, but Arsenal are keeping the flame alive. Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey and Walcott are all involved as they triangulate beautifully down the inside-left channel, eventually winning a corner. Nothing comes of that, though Cazorla was this close to being released into the area during the initial pretty move.
8 min: This is all Arsenal. Their movement going forward is comparable to that of the German arrows on the Dad's Army titles, except they're not being stopped at the Channel. Walcott in particular, goal aside, looks very lively.
5 min: Rangers are all over the shop. Arsenal twice in a minute nearly break free down the inside left, first through Walcott, then Carzola. Then, down the other flank, Walcott goes on a meander and nearly breaks clear into the area for a shot, but he's eventually crowded out by a couple of Rangers defenders who suddenly remember they're being paid to move about, and react to breaking events, and stuff.
4 min: Most of the noise is being made by the away support, as you'd imagine. The home fans are sitting in near silence, bar the audible sucking of teeth.
2 min: Mbia stands on Arteta's instep. It's an accident. Treatment is meted out, allowing Rangers time to regroup. What's the bets they won't regroup?
Well this didn't take long. Rosicky skedaddles down the right and pulls the ball back. It breaks on the edge of the area for Arteta, who slides a ball down the inside-right channel for Walcott. The wee man's in acres of space, and he batters the ball through, rather than past, the congenitally inept Rob Green. That's the quickest goal of the season. QPR!
It's a bonny summer eve in west London. The shimmering sun's beginning to cast long shadows across a pitch that's being replaced in the close season. It's 17 years old, and rock hard, by all accounts, a homage to the Astroturf of the 1980s. Anyway, it's kick-off time, and ...
Well, that's Spurs in fourth: they've won 1-0. Can Arsenal respond immediately? They're out on the Loftus Road pitch, resplendent in their trademark red, white and the blue that should only really be on their socks, shaking hands with their hosts, who are decked out in their famous blue-and-white hoops. This'll be on in a minute, you know!
Bad news for Arsenal! Looks like they'll be dropping a place before they kick a ball. Tottenham Hotspur have just taken an 85th-minute lead through You Know Who in their home game against Southampton. (Kick off was delayed due to some traffic incident or other near White Hart Lane.) Should the Spurs hold on for their three points, they'll leapfrog the Gunners into the fourth and final Champions League spot, a point ahead on 65 points, and for two hours at least, level on games played. This is going to be one hell of a chase to the tape, isn't it.
ESPN viewers have just enjoyed a lovely think-piece on QPR's demise by Guardian music scribe, sport scribbler, and general all-round Renaissance Man, Michael Hann. Would you like more Michael Hann, ESPN viewers? Would you like more of him? Here's more of him! QPR's Premier League relegation: a fan's postmortem. If you missed it earlier this week, get clicking, good people.
No José Bosingwa for QPR, then. Fare thee well, brave warrior! All together now:
My heart is broken,
But what care I?
Such pride inside may be woken,
I'll try my best not to cry,
By and by,
When the final farewells must be spoken.
I'll join the Legion,
That's what I'll do.
And in some far distant region,
Where human hearts are staunch and true,
I shall start my life anew.
Good-bye, it's time
I sought a foreign clime,
Where I may find
there are hearts more kind
Than I leave behind.
And so, I go,
To fight a savage foe,
Although I know
I'll be sometimes missed by the girls I've kissed.
I wish you all a last Good-bye.
I wish you all a last Good-byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Queens Park Rangers: Green, Traore, Hill, Park, Onuoha, Jenas, Remy, Ben Haim, Zamora, Townsend, Mbia.
Subs: Murphy, Derry, Taarabt, Mackie, Granero, Fabio, Bothroyd.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski.
Subs: Mannone, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Gervinho.
Referee: Jon Moss (Culture Club)
It should be a shoo-in, for Arsenal, this: QPR, an egregious shambles, were relegated in shame last week, while Arsene Wenger's side are bang slap in form as they approach the tail end of Hotspur Hunting Season, the balmy spring period during which Spurs are allowed to scamper off for a bit before being reined in and having their souls torn to shreds by a pack of wild dogs.
But Arsenal's record at Loftus Road is not great. They've not won in the league here since November 1990, when they fell behind to a Roy Wegerle penalty only to hit the Rs with a triple whammy in the last 12 minutes, Paul Merson, Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell doing the business. The result put title-chasing Arsenal in high spirits ahead of their Rumbelows Cup tie at Highbury against Lee Sharpe and Manchester United. Good luck, Lee! Good luck, United! You'll certainly need it!
Arsenal did win 6-0 here in the FA Cup in 2001, but of course all of this ancient history is pretty much an irrelevance. What's more to the point is the record during QPR's two-season stint back in the big time: Arsenal have scraped to a couple of uninspired 1-0 wins at the Emirates, while Rangers won this fixture last season, 2-1, Adel Taarabt and Samba Diakite ensuring Theo Walcott's strike counted for naught.
Having said all that, even more to the point is the following: Arsenal have won their last three games on the bounce, while QPR haven't found the net for 275 minutes. It should be a shoo-in, for Arsenal, this.
Kick off: 5.30pm in London, 10.30am in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.