A stubborn defensive performance from QPR held Manchester City to a goalless draw in tricky conditions at Loftus Road on Tuesday.
Pablo Zabaleta’s diving header and a disallowed Sergio Aguero goal were as close as Roberto Mancini’s side came to breaking the deadlock, leaving the league champions cursing a missed opportunity to keep pace with Manchester United.
Playing in the face of a swirling gale, much of QPR’s first 45 minutes was spent in their own half as they soaked up continuous pressure from their illustrious visitors.
Though Julio Cesar at times called his own international credentials into question with a pair of ill-judged punches – one of which should have been punished by Joleon Lescott, who volleyed over – the hosts were resolute and tough to break down.
A thunderous Javi Garcia half-volley from almost 40 yards had Cesar flying to his right, while the Rs had the woodwork to thank on 20 minutes as David Silva’s enterprising run and cross picked out Zabaleta, who was left to curse the crossbar for preventing his diving header rippling the net.
Though content to sit back, QPR did pockmark the half with a couple of chances as firstly the brilliant Adel Taarabt found Loic Remy with a quick free-kick, but the Frenchman watched his shot deflect past Joe Hart’s far post.
On 39 minutes, Taarabt was again the instigator, as he broke from a City corner and drove from the halfway line into Hart’s box, beating Gael Clichy with a trademark stepover. The Moroccan’s left-foot effort was brilliantly deflected to safety by Hart’s elbow though.
Roberto Mancini’s side looked to have broken the deadlock as Aguero finished low beyond Cesar, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Gareth Barry’s first-time strike from the edge of the box was tipped expertly behind by a wonderful one-handed save from Cesar to bring an intriguing half to a close.
City dominated early in the second half, helped by the introduction of Edin Dzeko for Samir Nasri, but were kept at bay by the QPR backline.
At the other end, Taarabt continued to mesmerise as he dribbled from the left flank, inside Javi Garcia and watched agonisingly as his curled effort flew wide of the far post.
The match was finely poised heading into the final half-hour but City were again denied by Cesar, who clung on to a powerful Silva volley, before Aguero volleyed high into the away supporters following Zabaleta’s deft header across the box.
Remy’s pace on the break kept the City defence honest and remained QPR’s sole outlet and for a moment it looked to have handed the hosts a penalty, as the Frenchman tumbled over Lescott’s outstretched leg.
Phil Dowd though, correctly chose to wave play on as replays showed there was minimal, if any, contact.
A late surge from the visitors tested Cesar’s reflexes once more but the Brazilian was up to the task, pouncing on Silva’s close-range finish to maintain his clean sheet, before Dowd’s eyesight was again tested as substitute Scott Sinclair tumbled under Nedum Onuoha’s challenge.