LONDON (AFP) –
Shaun Maloney’s injury-time free-kick earned Wigan Athletic a 1-1 draw at relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers, who appeared set for victory despite the early dismissal of Bobby Zamora.
Loic Remy looked to have boosted Rangers’ survival hopes with a sublime 85th-minute goal, but Maloney’s equaliser left Harry Redknapp’s men second from bottom, seven points adrift of Premier League safety with six games remaining.
Wigan, who have played a game less, remain in the bottom three on goal difference, but will rue their failure to make the most of their numerical advantage following Zamora’s 21st-minute dismissal for a head-high challenge on Jordi Gomez.
QPR manager Redknapp had set his side a target of five wins from their remaining seven games and Sunday’s draw will come as a serious dent to their efforts to stay up.
The win appeared to be theirs when Remy produced an outstanding finish to cap a breakaway led by Stephane Mbia.
But they paid the price for a lack of discipline when Mbia fouled Maloney and the Wigan forward curled a free-kick into the top-right corner.
Redknapp made just one change from the side that had lost 3-2 at Fulham last time out, with Adel Taarabt making way for Junior Hoilett.
By contrast, Wigan arrived in west London on the back of successive victories against Norwich City and Newcastle United, and their recent revival was reflected in Roberto Martinez’s unchanged starting line-up.
Wigan’s confidence was apparent in the way they approached the game, with Arouna Kone and Jean Beausejor combining to create an opening for Callum McManaman, only for the midfielder to shoot tamely at Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Rangers’ response, though, showed Redknapp’s team are not short of belief, despite their lowly position.
And they came desperately close to taking the lead in the 10th minute when Hoilett headed Jose Bosingwa’s floated pass into the path of Remy and the Frenchman was unlucky to see his shot deflect to safety off the post.
But any hope Rangers could build on that positive start disappeared 10 minutes later when Zamora experienced his moment of madness.
The forward inexplicably launched his foot towards the ball as Gomez was about to head Maloney’s throw in.
His studs connected with the side of the Wigan midfielder’s head, leaving referee Phil Dowd with little option but to issue a red card.
Wigan stepped up the pressure but it was to the home side’s credit that the visitors were able to conjure only two shots on goal immediately after the dismissal, both directed wide by McManaman.
When Rangers did manage to get men forward, the Wigan defence appeared vulnerable.
And it took an excellent covering tackle from Emmerson Boyce to prevent Remy from testing keeper Joel Robles after the striker had been sent clear by Andros Townsend in first-half stoppage time.
The scare did nothing to spark Wigan into life after the break, with Martinez’s side continuing to lack ideas going forward.
It was Rangers who continued to pose the greater threat, stretching Wigan when they hit the visitors on the break.
And the introduction of Taarabt for Hoilett in the 56th minute gave Rangers another dimension that almost brought reward when the Moroccan’s cross found Remy, who headed narrowly wide.
Wigan grew stronger as the game wore on and substitute Franco Di Santo was convinced he should have won a penalty after being pushed by Nedum Onuoha.
Then Cesar sprang to the home side’s rescue with an excellent save to keep out James McArthur’s header from close range.
That set the scene for a dramatic finale that is likely to have a significant impact on the final outcome of the relegation battle.Published 07 Apr 2013, 23:18 IST