How fitting that of all the big names and massive salaries on Harry Redknapp’s bally-hooed Queens Park Rangers, the man who sent them to the playoff final was wearing a kit with no name and number on the back?
24-year-old Charlie Austin penned a dramatic comeback for QPR with a late-second-half equalizer and the extra time match winner as the club advanced to within 90 minutes of the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic in the second leg of their Championship playoff semifinal at Loftus Road.
Austin has 19 goals this season for QPR after stints at Burnley, Swindon Town, Poole Town, Hungerford Town and Kintbury Rangers. His story is remarkable, and now his strike rate has sent QPR into a date with Derby County after the Rams cruised past Brighton 6-2 on aggregate.
Former Newcastle United player James Perch scored in the ninth minute to give Wigan a lead that would last into the 73rd minute, when Austin converted a penalty won by Canadian attacker Junior Hollett. Austin struck again in the 96th minute, and that ol’ Wigan magic couldn’t be found.
Derby County and Queens Park Rangers square off on May 24 at Wembley for the right to go back to the Premier League.
The semifinals will feature Arsenal, Hull City, League One’s Sheffield United, and the defending champions Wigan Athletic as Arsenal looks to avoid upsets against three clear underdogs with a chance to do something big.
Yesterday’s action saw Arsenal take out their recent anger on Everton 4-1, with Mesut Ozil making a strong comeback from his time on the bench and Olivier Giroud picked up a goal off the bench.
Today, three more fixtures have locked in the semifinals for the event.
Sheffield United 2-0 Charlton Athletic
It was 0-0 for a while, but the Blades broke Charlton’s hearts with a pair of second-half goals from Ryan Flynn and Jay Brayford put Sheffield United through.
It’s another monumental win for new manager Nigel Clough, who took over a team in the League One relegation zone, and he not only has them 11th in the league, but now has a chance to make it to Wembley.
Hull City 3-0 Sunderland
Gus Poyet dropped Jozy Altidore again, this time due to a training ground injury, and the Black Cats were stomped by Hull City at KC Stadium. A trio of goals were bagged in quick succession, as Curtis Davies, David Meyler, and Matty Fryatt all scored within nine minutes, the last with 13 minutes left on the clock.
It also could have been worse, as Sone Aluko missed a penalty for the hosts in the first half.
Manchester City 1-2 Wigan Athletic
Yup, that happened. After securing the Capital One Cup a few weeks ago, it’s back to cup disappointment for the Sky Blues, as a Jordi Gomez penalty and a James Perch early-second-half score gave Wigan the victory.
Samir Nasri threaded the needle for a consolation after City made a triple substitution but it was not enough as Wigan defended admirably down the stretch as City poured on the pressure.
It only adds to the calamities at the back for Manuel Pellegrini, with rumors of City’s possible hands on deck for Sergio Ramos. Gael Clichy was beaten on the second Wigan goal, and once again Martin Demichelis is in the spotlight at the back conceding the first-half penalty.
The Wigan victory means Arsenal are the only big club to make the semifinals, and at least one smaller club will have the opportunity to take home a memorable piece of silverware from Wembley.
Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic
Hull City vs Sheffield United
Free from New York, Holgersson finds a home in England
Holgersson, 28, joins a Wigan squad that features players like Callum McManaman, Emmerson Boyce and James Perch.
“Markus had a few options available to him,” said Latics manager Uwe Rosler. “We are delighted he has chosen to come to Wigan Athletic. He brings a wealth of experience, together with the versatility to play in a number of positions because of his good technical ability.
“The defense is an area where we needed strengthening and Markus will definitely help the squad moving forwards.”
The BBC points out that Wigan has now added five players to its ranks since the start of 2014, including Tyias Browning, Nicky Maynard, Josh McEachran and Martyn Waghorn.