x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mark Hughes lambasts the officials after QPR lose to Bolton

Ivan Klasnic scores the winner, but the QPR manager is furious over 'ghost goal', while Sunderland beat Liverpool and Everton's David Moyes celebrates his 10th year in charge with win over Tottenham.

Bolton’s Darren Pratley, right, scores the opening goal in the match against Queens Park Rangers. The home side went on to win 2-1.
Bolton’s Darren Pratley, right, scores the opening goal in the match against Queens Park Rangers. The home side went on to win 2-1.

Decisions, decisions. An extraordinary afternoon of errors, where controversy and confusion were constants, was settled by perhaps the sole correct call of a remarkable match.

With 10 minutes remaining, with his side mired in the relegation zone and boasting the worst home record in the country, Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle introduced a second striker. Six minutes later, Ivan Klasnic provided a reminder of his predatory prowess to score the winner and enable Wanderers to leapfrog Queens Park Rangers in the table.

Yet, apart from among the Bolton faithful, it is not why it will be remembered. It is rare that a game prompts the English Football Association (FA) to issue a statement while it is still being played, but this was that rarity. It was a day when football's Luddism appeared especially embarrassing.

From Joey Barton's corner, Clint Hill's 20th-minute header clearly entered the Bolton net before goalkeeper Adam Bogdan clawed it on to the bar and away. Referee Martin Atkinson and his assistant Bob Pollock ruled otherwise, putting the QPR defender in a select group with players such as Frank Lampard, for England against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, and Pedro Mendes, for Tottenham Hotspur against Manchester United in 2005: the scorers of the phantom goals.

"A significant moment," said manager Mark Hughes, in a major understatement. "All you ask for is the key moments and the key decisions to be judged correctly."

"I sympathise with Mark," said Coyle. "Nobody is a bigger advocate of goal-line technology than myself."

Others remain to be convinced. There are plans to belatedly introduce it and the FA were keen to reiterate their support for those proposals, but Fifa will not decide until after Euro 2012 and it will not happen until the 2013/14 season at the earliest.

None of which placated Hughes. "The laughable thing is that the FA have come out and said they are all in favour of goal-line technology," he added. "They are trying to protect the poor performance of officials they supply. Goal-line technology should come in but until it does, do the job the assistants are supposed to, which is check whether the ball has crossed the line."

Yet the litany of official errors extended beyond that. "They hardly covered themselves in glory," Hughes said.

QPR should have led when the ball crossed the line but a goal was not given, albeit after a corner that should not have been awarded. They then conceded to a goal that was arguably offside - depending upon the interpretation of players interfering with play - before levelling with one that was definitely offside.

The actual scoring began contentiously. After a well-worked free kick, Bolton worked an overlap for Tim Ream to cross. Darren Pratley, who had been offside when Martin Petrov picked out Ream, headed in.

Rangers equalised when Djibril Cisse, who had advanced too early, met Shaun Wright-Phillips's pass with a delicate flick. "They even got our goal wrong," said Hughes.

Yet amid the hullabaloo, a slide was extended. Rangers have now won only once in 16 league games and, ahead of a daunting run-in, find themselves in the bottom three. They were the division's biggest spenders in January but Bolton's recent additions made a difference, providing both goals. Ryo Miyaichi's jinking run was followed by a deft pass. Klasnic latched on to it, drilling his shot into the far corner. Game over, but the repercussions could continue for quite some time.

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Tottenham blew open the race for the final two Champions League spots in the Premier League on Saturday, slumping to a third straight loss as Chelsea closed on its London rival thanks to Didier Drogba's 100th goal in England's top division.

Spurs' hold on third place loosened after Nikica Jelavic's winner in a 1-0 defeat at Everton, allowing fifth-place Chelsea to move within four points after Drogba's second-half goal in a 1-0 win over 10-man Stoke.

Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed in the drop zone after losing 2-0 at home to relegation rival Blackburn.

Liverpool lost 1-0 at Sunderland thanks to Nicklas Bendtner's 56th-minute goal to leave the League Cup winners 10 points off Chelsea and Arsenal, which hosts Newcastle on Monday.

In the day's other match, Fulham missed the chance to draw level on points with seventh-place Liverpool by conceding a last-minute goal in a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa.

With title rivals Manchester City and Manchester United not playing until Sunday, the focus at the top of the standings was on the race for third and fourth.

Chelsea's faltering form under Andre Villas-Boas led to the Portuguese coach being fired last weekend and replaced by Roberto Di Matteo until the end of season, with the team having dropped out of the top four.

The Italian's first match in charge was a 2-0 victory over Birmingham in an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday and he followed that up with a narrow win over Stoke, which played more than an hour a man light after Ricardo Fuller's sending-off for a stamp on Branislav Ivanovic's groin in the 25th.

Chelsea hit the bar twice before Drogba, a day before his 34th birthday, collected a pass from substitute Juan Mata, rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and slotted in his finish in the 68th for a milestone goal.

"With the events of the last week, it was important for us to get that win," Di Matteo said. "You could feel a bit of nervousness but better times will come."

Tottenham was a title contender a month ago but has now lost to Arsenal, United and Everton, meaning a top-four place is no longer guaranteed.

Jelavic scored the only goal on his full debut, stretching Everton's unbeaten run to eight games.

Liverpool extended its poor run in the league to just one win in eight games with a poor defeat at the Stadium of Light, with Kenny Dalglish's team barely having a chance of note.

Bendtner, who was carried off on a stretcher late on after clashing with Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, scored when Fraizer Campbell's low shot came off the post. The ball hit Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina on his head and rebounded back onto the goal frame, allowing the Denmark striker to crash home.

Liverpool stayed seventh, five points behind sixth-place Newcastle.

* With agencies