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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
February 23, 2013
• Loftus Road Stadium, London
Referee: A. Taylor
• Attendance: 18337
Queens Park Rangers
R. Giggs 80'
And that, my friends, is all you're going to get from me. Thanks for stopping by, and make sure you join us again tomorrow for another exciting day of Premier League action. Cheerio!
Hardly a classic at Loftus Road, then, but further proof of why Manchester United will almost certainly regain the Premier League title this season. They played within themselves, but still had far too much for a game but desperately poor QPR. Christopher Samba was the hosts' best avenue back into the game after Rafael's stunning first-half opener, but all hope was extinguished by Ryan Giggs' clinical second 10 minutes from time. United are 15 points clear now with 11 games to play and, whether Manchester City beat Chelsea tomorrow or not, it seems inconceivable that the title won't be heading back to Old Trafford in May. Real Madrid will visit first, though, and Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping against hope that Robin van Persie is back to full fitness in time to take on the Spanish giants after being withdrawn prematurely today.
90' + 3'
Taarabt has one final angry swipe at goal, but it's blocked and the final whistle blows. You can't help feeling we've seen the Premier League champions beat a Championship side here.
CHANCE! QPR haven't given up, even if their fans have. Taarabt whips another teasing ball in from a free-kick, and Samba's far-post header is blocked by the feet of De Gea. That is surely that.
CHANCE! And that, my friends, is why Welbeck has only one Premier League goal this season. Giggs cuts the ball back to the youngster in yards of space in the penalty area, but he elects to take a touch rather than shooting, and a great chance for a third goal is gone.
Rooney looks to be in the mood now, too. Some lovely one-touch play involving Welbeck and Nani tees the Englishman up for a shot just outside the area, but his powerful shot lacks real accuracy.
CHANCE! United are threatening to run riot here. Valencia cuts the ball back to Giggs, whose ingenious lob attempt clips the top of the bar before Nani wastefully blasts the rebound miles over.
Goal Ryan Giggs
GOAL! It's all over, and United are going 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League. Nani slides in Giggs this time and the Welshman, having timed his run to perfection, slams the ball beyond Cesar and into the bottom corner. Game, set and match. Title, too?
Spaces are opening up for United now as QPR commit more men forward. Welbeck fools Samba with a double-stepover and seems to have acres of space to unload a shot, but Jenas gets back just in time to execute a flying block.
CHANCE! Really nice interplay from United. Nani's clever pass sends Evra racing to the byeline to cut the ball back for Rooney, but the Englishman's shot is tame and blocked. A let-off for QPR.
One thing I neglected to mention - seconds before that change, Samba booted a clearance out of the stadium. Because he could. The man is a beast.
Redknapp plays his final card, introducing Junior Hoilett, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring problem, in favour of Townsend.
Rafael has had an excellent game today, defending and attacking with equal assurance and gusto. He surges to the byeline from a Valencia flick, but this time his cross lets him down with Rooney and Welbeck lurking in the middle.
Another change for United, as Young comes off to be replaced by Antonio Valencia. Nani shifts over to the left flank.
CHANCE! Barely two minutes into the action, Remy cuts inside and unleashes a fierce strike which De Gea beats away. From the resulting corner, Samba heads just wide of the post. A reminder, if one were needed, that this game isn't over.
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
Neither manager is entirely happy with what they've seen so far, and it's time for some substitutions. Loic Remy, himself an injury doubt prior to this game, replaces the stricken Zamora, while Rooney comes on for the enthusiastic but ineffective Chicharito.
It's hard to see the logic behind Redknapp's decision to send Zamora out for the second half. The former Fulham man can barely move, let alone compete with Vidic and Ferdinand in aerial duels.
The Premier League leaders are still pouring forward with pace and purpose whenever they choose but, shorn of the guile of Rooney and Van Persie, clear chances are difficult to come by.
Indeed, it is United who still look the more dangerous team, playing as they are on the counterattack. Chicharito peels away smartly to the edge of the box, but his hopeful curler is easily gathered by Cesar.
The home side have begun the second half as they ended the first, pushing high up the pitch and trying to exert pressure in the final third. Ferdinand and Vidic have so far been imperious in shackling a plainly injured Bobby Zamora, though.
QPR have made one substitution at the break, with Jermaine Jenas replacing Granero. United are unchanged.
Sorry, I'm aware that update was a bit 'number-heavy'. I'll tone it down from now on. Oh, and we're back underway.
STAT ATTACK: United have now scored on each of their six visits to Loftus Road in the Premier League era. On three of of those occasions, they've scored at least three goals. Will this be number four?
So, not quite the rout many expected at Loftus Road in the first half, but a dominant United performance nonetheless. Neither side has created much in the way of chances, but quality is undoubtedly the difference, with Rafael's rocket separating the two sides. It's only one goal, and Van Persie's withdrawal is a positive for the hosts, but this is a tall order.
45' + 2'
Both sides attempt to launch one last attack before half-time, but both passages of play peter out and the referee blows his whistle. United lead at the break.
Now Patrice Evra is down after taking a studded boot to the face from Townsend. The combative Frenchman is soon back up on his feet though, much to the derision of the Loftus Road crowd.
CHANCE! QPR might be dangerous from attacking set-pieces, but they still look vulnerable defending them. This time, Nemanja Vidic evades Samba with ease before meeting Giggs' free-kick delivery with a free header which flies wide.
Robin van Persie
Redknapp's men are showing good ambition here - let's face it, they have to - but, that Samba header aside, the United defence has dealt with every threat fairly comfortably. Meanwhile Van Persie has succumbed to his injury, and is replaced by Danny Welbeck.
CHANCE! Seconds after making his dramatic clearance, Rafael surges upfield and clips a sublime pass over the QPR defence for Van Persie, but the Dutchman's fierce volley is parried wide by Cesar. Really livening up, this.
CHANCE! QPR finally go close as the giant Christopher Samba meets Esteban Granero's inviting corner with a header which Rafael clears off the line. Is that 2-0 to the Brazilian?
QPR finally muster another shot in anger as Andros Townsend cuts inside from the right, but the Tottenham man balloons his effort almost out of Loftus Road. Moments later, Taarabt unleashes another strike from range which fails to worry David De Gea.
United had done very little to merit being ahead prior to Rafael's sensational strike, and they still look a little lacking in fluency in attack. QPR, for their part, look utterly toothless.
The home side are trying to find their feet again with some simple possession. United, meanwhile, have their own problems, with Van Persie moving more gingerly than Paul Scholes after taking a knock.
GOAL! United lead, and it's an absolute screamer from Rafael. Van Persie's driven cross is parried out by Cesar to the edge of the box, but the young Brazilian meets it first time with a strike which arrows into the top corner. Cesar helpless, QPR stunned.
Ryan Giggs surges downfield and tries to pick out Chicharito, but the Mexican is so far offside he might be playing a different game.
STAT ATTACK: For all the talk of how in-form Van Persie is, Chicharito has 14 goals in his last 18 games in all competitions. The Mexican throws himself at a Nani cross, but it just evades him.
Adel Taarabt jinks into space some 25 yards out before firing harmlessly wide. Moments later, Chicharito's header from another dangerous Young cross forces Julio Cesar to tip the ball over his crossbar.
So, after Sir Alex Ferguson earlier this month suggesting the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership is a thing of the past, both take to the field today. Strange. Fergie is usually so straight with the media...
Nani goes down clutching his backside under a challenge from Jose Bosingwa, and is awarded a free-kick. The Portuguese meets Ashley Young's in-swinging delivery unmarked in the box, but heads well wide.
Chicharito wins possession in the final third, but his attempted pass through to Robin van Persie finds the Dutchman offside.
QPR pump what you would assume will be the first of many deep free-kicks into the United box, but Rio Ferdinand heads clear.
Only minutes in, but a pattern has already emerged. QPR are sitting deep with men behind the ball, while United stroke the ball around confidently in the middle third of the pitch. No chances yet.
And we're off!
The teams are on the pitch, and kick-off is just moments away...
Shocks are one of the main reasons we love football, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone confident of a home win at Loftus Road today. QPR have never beaten Manchester United in the Premier League era, with their last triumph coming in 1989. The absence of Wayne Rooney may give Harry Redknapp hope, but his side face a rested Robin van Persie in his stead. The Dutchman has scored 19 Premier League goals in his first season with the Red Devils - as many as the entire QPR team have mustered.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Young; Hernandez, Van Persie. Subs: Evans, Valencia, Anderson, Rooney, Lindergaard, Welbeck, Cleverley.
QPR: Cesar; Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Traore; Townsend, Granero, Mbia, Mackie, Taarabt; Zamora. Subs: Green, Park, Wright-Phillips, Onouha, Jenas, Remy, Hoilett.
Good afternoon ladies and gents! Welcome to Goal.com's LIVE text commentary of QPR-Manchester United. My name is Liam Twomey and I'll be taking you through all the action as it happens. First, let's take a look at the teams...
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