Sergio Aguero's brace salvaged a 2-2 draw for Manchester City at Queens Park Rangers as the Barclays Premier League champions lost further ground in their title defence.
The Argentina international scored an injury-time winner against QPR to seal the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League title for City, but similar celebrations at the end of the season appear more unlikely this campaign as Manuel Pellegrini's team lie eight points behind leaders Chelsea after 11 matches.
Charlie Austin had two disallowed goals before converting his sixth goal of the season to give the hosts a 21st-minute lead, with City suffering a ferocious early onslaught from Harry Redknapp’s side.
The visitors were indebted to a moment of brilliance from Aguero, who levelled the contest after 32 minutes. A Martin Demichelis own goal meant a repeat of the 2-1 scoreline that City suffered at West Ham United two weeks ago was on the cards. However, Aguero left a prone Richard Dunne in his wake to level seven minutes from time and QPR required a block by former City player Joey Barton from a Yaya Toure shot to preserve a deserved point.
Eliaquim Mangala replaced injured captain Vincent Kompany at the heart of the City defence, one of four changes to the XI who experienced contrasting fortunes against Manchester United and CSKA Moscow, while Bobby Zamora was preferred to Junior Hoilett for QPR.
A reshaped City backline featuring Bacary Sagna in place of Pablo Zabaleta soon was exposed as Austin found the net twice in quick succession, only to have both efforts disallowed. The striker headed in from an offside position and, from the resulting free-kick, City goalkeeper Joe Hart hit the ball with his standing foot before miskicking to Austin. Hart's failure to kick the ball directly out of his area meant a retake was necessary, despite a fine finish from the former Burnley forward.
City were unsettled and Hart was forced to deny Austin from close-range in the 15th minute before the same player finally got his goal.
Gael Clichy charged towards Mauricio Isla and lost his footing, enabling the Chile defender to find Austin, who was played onside by Mangala and slotted home.
City struggled to get going, with careless passing on show. Aguero appeared the only visiting player free of the problems and there was quality on display when he hauled his misfiring side level. Playing on the shoulder of the last man, Aguero wonderfully brought down Mangala's raking pass over the top before beating Robert Green.
Nevertheless, QPR finished the half on top as Hart denied Austin once more following an error from Fernando.
Isla made a vital intervention to stop Aguero converting Jesus Navas's low cross from the right channel in the first minute of the second period, before Toure came agonisingly close to converting a move he launched down the opposite flank.
City belatedly found slightly more control in possession but a last-ditch interception was required from Fernando in the 62nd minute, with Zamora poised to restore QPR's lead.
Edin Dzeko departed with an injury only four minutes after coming on as a substitute and City's misery appeared complete in the 76th minute when Fernando ceded possession to Vargas and he fed Austin, whose cross Demichelis put into his own net under pressure from Zamora.
Again Aguero led a lone charge for the visitors, rounding Green only to see Dunne clear his shot from the goalmouth. Dunne's centre-back partner Steven Caulker then nodded a header from replacement James Milner off the line and Green denied Toure in the 80th minute before Aguero got the second goal that his efforts deserved. It was his 12th of the season making him the leading scorer in the Barclays Premier League.
Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp: "I'm disappointed. I thought we played well enough and di enough to win the match.
When we went one up they were on the ropes, they came back and out of nothing got the equaliser really, and I thought when we went 2-1 up we were going to win for sure.
"Over the last four games we've played really well and have deserved more than the points we have picked up, so we're playing well and if we continue to play well we’ve got a great chance.
"It's all about spirit and I think we're just coming together in the last few weeks as a team. When I went to Ireland pre-season we only had a squad of 12 players, and those were players from the previous year, so we recruited late and it's taken time to get them to understand, but the two Chilean boys have shown what good players they are, Leroy Fer has settled in and showed what a good player he is. We still need Sandro to play more 90-minute games.
"So it's been difficult but if we keep improving as we have been we'll be OK."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "It was not our best game but we had four or five chances to score before they scored the second goal.
"I'm not thinking about Chelsea. I am thinking about our team. We have a lot of time, we have to play 27 games more. The championship is very long.
"At this moment Aguero is a very important player for us, he is a top player in the world. Maybe he needs the whole performance of the team to grow again. He needs now the team to play at their normal level with a lot more offensive play. I'm sure this will happen after the international break.
"It was not our best performance in defence, we must improve in this area.
"You can criticise the performance but not the way the players are working or their character."
|22 Nov 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|15 Dec 2014||v Everton (A)|
|29 Nov 2014||v Leicester (H)|
|02 Dec 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|20 Dec 2014||v West Brom (H)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Burnley (H)|