Shaun Maloney's last-minute free-kick denied QPR's 10 men what would have been a crucial win
Has Shaun Maloney's last-gasp free-kick sent QPR down? Well, not yet. They had to play for 70 minutes with 10 men after Bobby Zamora's red card and were on the verge of a win that would have taken them to within four points of Wigan thanks to Loic Remy's stunner. But, in their panic, they couldn't stop giving free-kicks away in stoppage time and in the end they were made to regret their indiscipline and Taarabt's Samir Nasri impression. Instead they are seven points behind Wigan and Sunderland with six games to play. Thanks for reading. Bye.
Oh dear. It looked like the free-kick was made for the left foot of Gomez but instead Maloney hits it with his right and bends a delicious effort over the wall and high into the top-left corner! Cesar didn't get anywhere near it. What an effort, though it helped that Adel Taarabt turned his back as he jumped, instead of taking the ball in the face. QPR are stunned. That could be the goal that sends them down.
90 min+3: Loftus Road howls as Wigan are awarded another free-kick for a stupid push by Mbia on Maloney. This one is closer.
90 min+2: Gomez's free-kick hits the ball and loops up into the air. It drops in the area but again QPR hack it clear.
90 min+1: It's always Gomez. Bosingwa fouls him from behind, around 25 yards out. It's a free-kick to Wigan and QPR are furious, claiming they should have had a free-kick for a foul by Di Santo on Bosingwa.
90 min: There will be four more minutes for QPR's fans to bite their nails.
89 min: "Given how many of their players play between the lines I'm not sure the sending off has helped Wigan," says Niall Mullen. "I have no idea if that's true but it sounds like something one of the nu-tacticians might say. Before referencing Lobanovsky or Guy Roux."
88 min: Wigan replace Figueroa with Roger Espinoza. To be honest, Wigan deserve this for their inexplicable lack of urgency since Bobby Zamora's red card in the first half. Meanwhile Jamie Mackie is on for Loic Remy.
87 min: A cross from the right comes to Kone at the far post and his volley is blocked. QPR break and Figueroa is booked after bringing down Townsend.
Incredible! Absolutely incredible! And Roberto Martinez will be furious with his side. They had a free-kick 25 yards from goal but instead of hitting it they decided to make a seven-course meal out of it instead. Figueroa's shot was eventually blocked and the rebound fell kindly for Mbia to lead a counterattack. He raced away and then - at last - he played a pass to the right for the onrushing Remy. On the run, from around 20 yards out, he clipped it first time with his instep and his astonishing effort flew into the top-right corner! What a goal! Loftus Road erupts.
83 min: And now Samba is booked for sending Di Santo flying. Phil Dowd originally played an advantage for Wigan, if it is possible for such a thing to exist. "I am beginning to take this game personally," says Ian Copestake.
82 min: Alcaraz is booked for bringing down Taarabt in full flight.
81 min: Wigan are doing this on purpose.
77 min: This should have been the opener for Wigan. Gomez crossed from the left and McArthur, six yards out and totally unmarked, heads straight at Cesar, who beats it away. It was a decent enough save but much easier than it should have been.
76 min: McCarthy smashes a shot from 25 yards. Hill heads it away and falls over. Then McArthur has a shot from a bit closer in. It's a terrible effort.
73 min: There I was on Friday, confidently telling people that this would be a good game.
72 min: "In reponse to stephen mitchell's question & gary naylor's suggestion of Juventus, i actually think when Juventus were relegated due to the match fixing they only had two players who'd won the champions league - del piero & gianluca pessotto who both won it for Juve in 95-96," says Ben Thomas.
70 min: For crying out loud. A free-kick to QPR on the left. The big men from the back trot forward. Taarabt stands over it. He decides to catch out Wigan with a pass down the left for Bosingwa. Excellent idea. Except he forgot to tell Bosingwa. Goal-kick for Wigan.
69 min: Figueroa clumsily concedes a free-kick with a foul on Mbia. It's 25 yards out and just to the right of the D. Townsend takes it and curls it over the wall and over the bar.
68 min: Wigan throw on Franco Di Santo and bring off Callum McManaman. Maybe he can liven things up. It's come to this.
66 min: "Wigan are playing in the manner of a pre-season friendly not a white hot relegation six-pointer," says Niall Mullen. "Maybe the semi-final is playing on some of their minds?" They've barely been able to exploit their extra man at all. Most unimpressive.
65 min: Mbia is back on. What excitement! Meanwhile Gomez dinks a wonderful pass over the top of the QPR defence for Maloney but he can't bring it down in time before Samba gets back.
64 min: QPR are down to nine men for the time being, Mbia having gone off for more treatment.
63 min: Mbia is down after a collision with Kone. It looked pretty innocuous but he seems to have hurt his ankle.
62 min: Wigan replace Jean Beasejour with James McArthur.
61 min: And QPR are almost rewarded for their extra attacking intent. Taarabt whips a cross in from the right and Remy rises highest to glance a header just wide of the right post from 12 yards out.
60 min: Saying that, QPR have been dominating the last few minutes. Townsend and Remy are dangerous but they don't have enough support. "Sorry, but Remy's tackle on Gomez is a red all day," says D Fallon. "Bet Jordi will have a quiet little cry to himself in the shower after the game. Haven't seen bullying like this since Barry Kent on Adrian Mole."
59 min: These are two bad sides.
57 min: Adel Taarabt replaces the disappointing Junior Hoilett for QPR.
56 min: "Have we had a Jermaine Jenas long shot yet?" says Ian Copestake. No. "You know the sort that misses, not the sort that he based his youthful reputation on. Having been utterly frustrated by West Ham and Liverpool I need something reassuring."
55 min: In answer to Stephen Mitchell's question, Gary Naylor suggests Juventus.
53 min: QPR aren't making it easy for themselves. Now Remy dives in and scythes through Gomez, earning himself a yellow card. Poor Gomez. What did he ever do to anyone?
51 min: QPR can't get out of their own half now. Wigan keep getting into promising positions but a combination of some poor decisions and some stout defending is frustrating them. I'm not sure if Roberto Martinez will be too pleased with how his side are wasting these opportunities. They haven't created enough.
50 min: A picture of the crowd reveals someone is watching the game while dressed as some sort of woodland creature. Why?
49 min: I have told a lie. Bosingwa is at left-back and Onuoha is at right-back.
47 min: Wigan have began this half strongly. A cute pass from Scharner sends McCarthy sprinting away down the left channel. His pass inside to Maloney is really poor though and eventually Gomez's deflected drive loops straight at Cesar.
46 min: Off we go again, Wigan getting the second half underway. "
When the inevitable happens and If QPR go down, will they be the side with the most Champions League medals held by their players to do so?" says Stephen Mitchell. "I count 5 CL medals among them: Bosingwa (1 with Porto, 1 with Chelsea), Julio Cesar (1 with Inter), Cisse (1 with Liverpool), and Park (1 with ManU). Not a question that I expect anyone to know off the top of their head, but worth a punt as long as I see Gary Naylor’s name on the MBM."
QPR are making a half-time substitution: Nedum Onuoha is on for Armand Traore. I assume he'll move into the middle of defence and Clint Hill will go to left-back. Enjoy.
Peep! Peep! Boo! QPR have done well to hold Wigan after Bobby Zamora's red card for his attempt to decapitate Jordi Gomez but a draw is no good for them.
45 min+2: Imagine the reaction from the QPR fans if this had gone in. Beasejour got round the back on the left and his cross was headed away at the near post but only as far as Gomez on the edge of the area. Under no pressure, he skewed his volley badly wide.
45 min+1: Bosingwa curves a lovely pass round the corner for Remy. He takes a good first touch but Boyce dives in to halt him as he prepares to shoot from close range. Robles claws the resulting corner away.
45 min: Townsend has so much potential. That is all.
43 min: "Even though we know it's harder to play against ten men, the referee might still look to 'even things up' in the second half," says Simon McMahon. "Don't you just love football cliches?"
42 min: McCarthy has a shot from 25 yards out with his right foot. It swerves and bounces in front of Cesar, who tips it wide of the left post. From the resulting corner, Kone tries to turn Scharner's clever header home but he can't make any contact with it in the six-yard box.
41 min: Papiss Cisse has scored a 93rd minute goal to make it Newcastle 1-0 Fulham.
40 min: Wigan are dominating possession but are finding it difficult to penetrate QPR's deep defence. They could do with upping the tempo; it's all a bit too intricate.
38 min: James McCarthy is harshly booked for bringing down Townsend. He clearly got the ball.
37 min: The free-kick is whipped into the Wigan area and after an almighty scramble, Hill making a nuisance of himself, it's hacked clear.
36 min: The QPR fans cheer ironically after Mbia is awarded a free-kick on the right for a 'foul' by Beausejour. They've got a point - Gomez had no business at all headbutting Zamora's boot.
34 min: McManaman is causing QPR so many problems. He runs at Traore on the right and wins another corner for Wigan. "Never mind Callum McManaman's hideous assault, Grant Holt yesterday was far more dangerous than a stupid half-hearted foot from Zamora," says Gary Naylor. "I don't know what a red card is either, but if Zamora had gone with his head and there had been a clash, there's no way it would even have been a foul. The more I see the less I know."
32 min: Wigan are getting closer. Maloney feeds a pass into Kone's feet on the edge of the area. Kone could play it back to Maloney but instead tees up McManaman on the right for a fierce shot that fizzes inches past the right post. Cesar was beaten. He caught that so well.
30 min: McManaman picks up possession 25 yards out, having drifted inside from the left. Granted space, he shifts the ball on to his right foot and bends one not too far over the left corner. "Watching the game, you should see it coming, when the ref talked to the linesman he was listening and then shot him a look that said "really?", then flipped his expression which said "so I have no choice'," says Dorian Stedman.
29 min: Wigan have to get Luka Modric on.
28 min: Gomez has a dig from 25 yards out; Cesar gets down to his left to save comfortably. "I really wish I was in London right now," says JR in Illinois. "If I was I'd run right over to Loftus Road, buy a ticket, go in and boo the living daylights out of Gomez. How dare he put his head at head height right in front of the studs of poor Zamora's boot."
27 min: Wigan, as you'd expect, have had all of the ball for the last five minutes. QPR are having to play on the break - and all of a sudden Townsend breaks through the middle and plays Remy through on the right. He's in the clear but the flag goes up for offside. "Malicious or not studs into the face are incredibly dangerous," says Niall Mullen. "Definite red card."
25 min: The difference between Zamora's red and, say, Carlton Cole's against Everton that was later rescinded is that Zamora knew exactly where Gomez was, whereas Cole didn't see Baines. A moment of madness from one of QPR's most experienced players. I still can't comprehend what he was thinking. It was so dangerous.
24 min: "I'd forgotten how high and how close the camera angle is at Loftus Road," says Gary Naylor. "It feels a bit like we're in a window overhanging the pitch - Henry VIII at the real tennis."
Loftus Road was the venue for my first ever football match, so I've got a lot of affection for it. A 3-2 win for QPR over Sheffield Wednesday back in 1994...
22 min: To be honest, you can't argue with that red card. It was an absolutely ludicrous decision. Zamora's boot was head-height and he studded Gomez right in the fizzog. The QPR fans aren't happy, of course, but they haven't seen the replay. Gomez is being booed for being kicked in the head. It was brainless from Zamora. The ball was over on the left touchline so there was no need to make any sort of challenge, let alone one like that.
21 min: Oh dear. After discussions with his linesman, Phil Dowd eventually walks over and shows the red card to Bobby Zamora! QPR are down to 10 men.
20 min: Jordi Gomez is down after being caught in the head by Zamora's studs. Zamora's challenge was so high there. It was clumsy rather than malicious, but still. I don't know what is and isn't a red card now.
19 min: There's that QPR defending we know and love. McManaman crosses to the far post and for whatever reason Townsend decides not to head it away; eventually Beausejour wins a corner. It's taken short and headed away.
18 min: It's just falling down for both sides in the final third at the moment.
16 min: McCarthy is down after being caught on the ankle by Mbia. He should be ok though.
14 min: Townsend tries a shot from distance; Alcaraz stands firm. It deflects to Hoilett on the left and his cross from the left is misjudged by Figueroa at the far post, but Remy wasn't alive to the opportunity and the ball went behind for a goal-kick.
11 min: It's interesting that Taarabt is on the bench again for QPR. He scored and won a penalty in the defeat to Fulham but Redknapp just doesn't seem to be able to place his trust in him. An understatement: he's talented but infuriating.
9 min: Loic Remy hits the post with a brilliant effort! Zamora had flicked a high pass to the left for Hoilett, who managed to lay it off to Remy on the edge of the area despite severe pressure from Boyce. Remy took a touch to set himself and then looped an outstanding volley with his right foot on to the face of the right post, the ball rebounding to safety. Robles didn't move an inch.
8 min: This is a fine move from Wigan. Maloney set Beasejour running at pace through the middle. QPR's defence backed off, inviting the shot, but with the ball on his right foot he decided to play one more pass to McManaman on the edge of the area. He cut inside and shot, but straight at Cesar.
7 min: QPR have a free-kick 40 yards from goal, just to the right, after Figueroa brought down Remy from behind. Bosingwa drifts it to the far post but Samba can't do anything with it.
5 min: Gomez tries to slip a pass down the left for Beausejour. It's not got enough pace on it though and Bosingwa is across to concede the corner, which is cleared.
4 min: Having gone in at the break a goal down to Sunderland, Chelsea are now winning 2-1 thanks to an own goal from Matthew Kilgallon and Branislav Ivanovic's goal.
3 min: A bright start here from QPR. Townsend glides inside from the right and on to his left foot. He leaves a couple of Wigan defenders in his trail and tries to find Zamora on the edge of the area but Boyce gets across to clear.
2 min: "What's your choice of clothing for this MBM, Jacob?" says Simon McMahon. "No time for business suits at this stage of the season. Overalls? My sleeves are rolled up already." A shirt. Sleeves rolled up. And nothing else.
And we're off! QPR get us going, attacking from left to right. Wigan have an FA Cup semi-final to think about next weekend but surely they're not going to lack focus today.
Here come the teams at a sunny Loftus Road. QPR are in their blue and white hooped shirts, Wigan are in their all-black strip.
"Excited for the game today," says Marc Howlett. "Wigan have had tremendous results at the end of recent seasons, memorably the 1-0 away win on the last game of the 2010-2011 season. But as one of the few Wigan fans in the States, I always get very nervous this time of year. Of all the current teams in the Premier League, I think Wigan would have the most difficult time returning to the top flight after relegation. What do you think?"
It would depend entirely on whether Martinez stayed and Dave Whelan continued to back them. I suspect the latter would happen.
Here are the teams. A wise tactical decision by both managers to pick 11 players.
QPR: Cesar; Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Traore; Townsend, Jenas, Mbia, Hoilett; Remy, Zamora. Subs: Green, Park, Taarabt, Mackie, Granero, Onuoha, Ben Haim.
Wigan: Robles, Alcaraz, Scharner, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, Gomez, Beausejour; McManaman, Kone, Maloney. Subs: Al-Habsi, Caldwell, Di Santo, Henriquez, McArthur, Espinoza, Stam.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Afternoon. You could set your watch to Wigan. If they're being routinely embarrassed every week, you know that it's winter but if they're making you think of Brazil's 1970 side and Franco Di Santo is playing like Leo Messi, then you know it's spring. For six months of the season, they are the worst side of all time and from March to May to they are the greatest side of all time, even better than Barcelona. It's the Wigan calendar and it's worked for them until now. In each of the past three seasons under Roberto Martinez, they have stayed up thanks to some absurd results during the run-in and there's every chance they're about to do it again this year, although they do arrive at Loftus Road in the bottom three, a point behind Sunderland. But every year, people say this is the year, this is the year Wigan go. Fools. They never learn.
And perhaps the example of Wigan should convince us not to write off QPR just yet. Harry Redknapp's side do look doomed, even if he keeps saying that they pull off the unlikeliest of escape acts, and if results don't go their way this afternoon they could find themselves 10 points adrift with six games to play. Redknapp reckons that five wins will keep them up and, yes, they have only won four times in the league all season. They desperately need to make it five today and the recent defeats to Aston Villa and Fulham have hardly done wonders for their confidence. However they were a tad unlucky not to get something out of both games and before then they had actually managed to win two in a row, beating Southampton and Sunderland. For QPR, it probably is too late - but they're not quite as hopeless as they were under Mark Hughes. Maybe, just maybe.
But probably not.