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Relief for Redknapp as QPR win playoff

Bobby Zamora scored a late winner for 10-man QPR to send them to the Premier League.
Bobby Zamora scored a late winner for 10-man QPR to send them to the Premier League.

LONDON -- Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp admitted he could not see his side scoring against a dominant Derby side in the Championship playoff final at Wembley, as he accepted fortune played a hand in the club's promotion back to the Premier League.

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An elated Redknapp told Sky Sports that he was hoping the game said to be worth 120 million pounds would go to extra-time and penalties until Bobby Zamora's dramatic 90th-minute winner propelled QPR back into the big time a year after their relegation from the top flight.

Redknapp feared the worst for his team when they were reduced to 10 men following Gary O'Neil's red card half an hour from the end of the game, but he hailed his side's character to find a route to victory.

"I don't know how we did it," conceded Redknapp, who had been soaked in champagne by the time he gave his reaction to reporters. "I would be a liar if I said I thought I would see us scoring. We were down to 10 men, they were probing us and we were hanging on.

"We were looking at maybe taking the game to penalties, if I'm being honest. They are a good side and we were hanging on for our lives. It ended up being a fantastic goal to win the game and I couldn't be more pleased.

"That was a one-off where you stand on the touchline, hanging on for grim death and you go and nick a goal like that. That's what makes this the best game in the world.

"I thought we were bang in trouble after the red card, but we did it. I want to do it for the people here [QPR fans], the owners and the players. They are fantastic people and now we can look forward to playing in the Premier League again. This means everything to me."

Crestfallen Derby manager Steve McClaren suggested his side's defeat was the toughest he has endured in his career, as their dominance for much of the game was not rewarded with victory.

"It was the cruelest game ever," he told the BBC. "I've lost some games in my career, but that is the cruelest. We didn't deserve that but you don't often get what you deserve. We don't blame anybody, but someone decided it was to be QPR's day.

"I'm so proud of the players for what they've achieved this season and for how they played today. You could only see one winner. Maybe we're not ready yet with this young team.

"QPR showed their experience, they made it tight but they never looked like scoring. We had a lot of the ball, got it wide and put it in dangerous areas but credit to QPR, they made it hard to break them down. They held their nerve and unfortunately they got the moment.

"Football tests your character at times, but the players stepped up to a big test and dominated the game with great energy and passion. Humility is a key thing in football and this will make us stronger."

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