Two down, one to go: QPR, Reading snoozer confirm clubs’ relegation from Premier League

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Confirming a conclusion their fans accepted some time ago, Queens Park Rangers and Reading sealed each others’ Premier League relegation on Sunday, doing so in the most appropriate way possible: with a display leaving no doubt their clubs don’t belong.

The match ended 0-0, a slog devoid of good chances and, more importantly, any evidence suggesting the match had meaning. Players lacking incentive to perform to ticket prices walked through 90 minutes with little regard for ceremony or result. So what if this was a Premier League match – an arena dreamed of by soccer players around the globe? Relegation foder worn down by 34 rounds of disappointment went through the motions in the 35th. Onlookers be damned.

If a tree falls in a forest, can a competitive match take place if nobody cares about winning?

Stuart James, in his report for the Guardian, summed it up better than I could:

In the end Reading and Queens Park Rangers conspired to put each other out of their misery. This goalless draw, which was every bit as bad as the scoreline suggests, condemns both clubs to relegation and a return to the Championship. Even if QPR and Reading win their final three matches it would not be enough to catch Wigan Athletic or Aston Villa, one of whom is guaranteed to reach 35 points because they meet on the final day of the season.

Though both teams confirmed their fate on the same day, we’re left with two very different impressions of their seasons.

Reading was a club that got hot in last year’s Championship and won an improbable promotion. They had never built up for a run at the Premier League, and once there, they were never situated to stay. They were clearly the least-capable team in the league, and it showed.

There’s often a difference between surprise and disappointment. The Royals’ relegation is the latter, not the former.

QPR, however, is the opposite. With Tony Fernandes’s investment backing them, they were expected to stay up. After a hyperactive summer of spending from Mark Hughes, Harry Redknapp broke the team’s transfer record twice in the winter window, yet the results just kept getting worse. QPR were well-situated to stay in the Premier League but kept finding ways to be bad.

Neither team looks a great bet to return next year, though nobody knows what summer will bring. Reading, at least, have Nigel Adkins, a man who brought Southampton up last year. If they keep their team together, they’ll (for better or worse) have some kind of chance, while QPR, who will desperately need to cut their wage bill, have to pull the roof down before they can rebuild.

“Proud” hat trick hero Kane raves at shorthanded Spurs win

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This could’ve gone much worse for Spurs.

Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen were suspended, and Christian Eriksen was sick.

[ RECAP: APOEL 0-3 Spurs ]

Never mind all that: Harry Kane was healthy, and scored three goals as Spurs kept pace with group mates Real Madrid in filing a 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Kane said he was very proud of the side’s performance, as youngster Anthony Georgiou and seldom-used Georges-Kevin N’Koudou put in shifts in the win. From the BBC:

“We weren’t pleased with the first-half and a couple of chances could have gone the other way. We were more clinical and in the Champions League that is what you have got to be.

“We are missing a few players but the lads who stepped in were fantastic. We have a solid squad and you have to be ready. 3-0 away in the Champions League no matter who you play is a good result.”

Kane has 11 goals in September between club and country, and has six hat tricks in 2017. There may not be a finer big striker firing in Europe right now, and both England and Spurs will hope to ride him well into 2018.

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool: Frustrated Reds come back for point

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A point from far from home is not the end of the world, but Liverpool will rue its missed chances in a 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Goalkeeper Artyom Rebrov had a stellar day for Spartak before being injured and then replaced by Aleksandr Selikhov, who was also strong for the Russians.

Fernando (not that one) scored a free kick for Spartak, while Philippe Coutinho bagged the equalizer that keeps the Reds ahead of Spartak on goal difference. Both sides are three points behind Sevilla.

Liverpool visits Maribor on Oct. 17, while Spartak will host Sevilla.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Roberto Firmino saw a promising header saved, and Brazilian attack partner Philippe Coutinho cleared a launch pad for countryman Fernando with a needless foul minutes later.

The 25-year-old ex-Sampdoria man that curled a free kick over the wall, and not too near to a post. Loris Karius was too slow to move, and the ball found its way to the back of the net. 1-0.

Sadio Mane was lively as usual, and let fly with a low drive for Spartak backstop Rebrov to collect inside the six.

Coutinho made amends with a solidly struck equalizer just after the half-hour mark, working a 1-2 with Mane and lacing a shot beyond the hopes of Rebrov.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Spartak wasn’t sleeping to start the second half, and both Karius and his Russian counterpart Rebrov had work to do early.

Rebrov needed to be substituted following a collision with Mohamed Salah and long delay. A Man of the Match candidate, would the goalkeeper swap tilt the scales?

Manchester City 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk: KDB pulls the strings

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A Man of the Match performance from Kevin De Bruyne was just enough to send Man City past plucky Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

David Silva assisted De Bruyne’s second half goal, and Bernardo Silva set up Raheem Sterling for the second just before time.

Alone in first, City will host Napoli on Oct. 17 while Shakhtar is off to Feyenoord.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Kevin De Bruyne set Sergio Aguero up for a chance that was well-covered by Shakhtar backstop Andriy Pyatov.

De Bruyne had the best chance of the first half, working himself into a “Surely” position only to miss his mark with a shot and leave the match scoreless.

At the other end, Ederson made an excellent save on Marlos.

Fittingly, De Bruyne helped set himself up for the opener, winning the ball and working a 1-2 with David Silva to finish with style.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Leroy Sane won a penalty for City, but Sergio Aguero’s tame effort was saved. At the other end, John Stones was directing traffic when a ball hit his arm. No call from the officials.

APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Kane nets hat trick

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Cyprus has been kind to Harry Kane.

The English striker scored thrice for Spurs, who join group mates Real Madrid on six points after a 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

The Bernabeu is next for Spurs, an Oct. 17 date with 2-0 Real Madrid, while APOEL will host Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Hugo Lloris flubbed an early clearance and was fortunate to see the back-bounding ball dribble wide of his left post.

Carlao could’ve given APOEL a surprise lead close to halftime but headed wide of the net from within 10 yards.

Kane nearly added an assist to his ledger at the start of the second half, but Son Heung-min just missed his effort wide of the frame.

He scored another goal anyway, and another one. Moussa Sissoko set Kane up for the second of the night, a relatively simple finish for the striker, and Kane completed his trio of goals when he headed Kieran Trippier‘s cross home.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]