Keegan's men find a higher gear

Simon Burton for Get Your Kits Out at Loftus Road        RETURN TO Manchester City      HOME PAGE
Tuesday October 29, 2003Manchester City celebrate Shaun Wright-Phillips' opener against QPR
                       QPR  0   Manchester City  3   League Cup

Manchester City are one of increasingly few Premiership sides to make this competition a priority, but they showed few signs here of the type of swagger and verve that might carry them to Cardiff, an evening of unconvincing toil ending with a scoreline which barely reflected the long spells of superiority enjoyed by their second division opponents.

City, in truth, had little to celebrate, other than the goal scoring return of Jon Macken after an extended period blighted by injury, even if by the time he made his intervention the match was already won. Shaun Wright-Phillips had made certain of that with two almost identical finishes, both sent low across the goalkeeper from Joey Barton's passes.

His adopted father, Ian Wright, the former Arsenal striker, was there to cheer him on from the stands, even if he left before the end after allegedly being racially abused by a QPR supporter, who was subsequenlty arrested.

Even with a first-choice line up, City did not have it all their own way, particularly in the first half. QPR would have loved to have chosen a similarly star-studded selection, but with Paul Furlong injured and Tony Thorpe cup-tied their one consolation was the presence of joint-top scorer Gareth Ainsworth, who passed a fitness test.

Perhaps it was the hope that quantity might disguise a lack of Premiership quality that Rangers started with such attacking zeal, both wide midfielders joining the forward line whenever their team had possession.

The moves appeared to surprise City, who saw the hosts dominate possession in the opening stages. The two best chances, however, fell to Nicolas Anelka, who raced onto Clarke Carlisle's back-header in the third minute, but prodded unconvincingly against Chris Day's leg, and then saw a half-volley deflected fractionally wide by Kevin McCleod.

City continued to look little better than their opponents, and when they did take the lead it was with an element of good fortune. Shaun Wright-Phillips appeared so far offside when he received Joey Barton's pass that even he stopped playing. But with McCleod limping back after a collision with Sun Jihai, the linesman's flag stayed down and, with Ian Wright screaming encouragement from the stand, the young midfielder ran through to shoot low into the far corner.

While the visitors hardly monopolised possession, they did have almost all of the chances for the remainder of the half, with Robbie Fowler finding time for his obligatory embarrassing miss after Day let Trevor Sinclair's stinging shot slip from the grasp.

Rangers went in at the interval with plenty of encouragement if little reward. And despite continued pressure after the restart, there was little sign that their efforts were to be rewarded, McLeod's weak and misdirected header after a cross from Richard Edghill, a former club captain at Maine Road released 18 months ago and rebuilding his career here, the closest they came in the opening stages.

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