London: Everton lost ground on the Premier League's top three after being held to a 1-1 draw at last-place Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, marking the winless hosts' worst start to a season in 21 years. Everton fell behind to a deflected strike by Junior Hoilett in the second minute, but equalised when Sylvain Distin's header hit the post and rebounded in off the shoulder of QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar in the 33rd.
The visitors' hopes of matching Saturday's wins by Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City above them were dashed, though, when Steven Pienaar was sent off on the hour mark for two yellow cards. "It ruined our opportunity to go and win three points but the players did well to hang on to get something out of the game," said Everton manager David Moyes.
Everton, traditionally slow starters to league seasons, stayed fourth but are now three points adrift of the two Manchester clubs and seven behind Chelsea. QPR, meanwhile, are without a win in their first eight games of a league campaign for the first time since 1991, piling the pressure on under-fire manager Mark Hughes.
"It is still the early stages of the season," Hoilett said. "You can see how we are gelling as a team and later in the season we will get the points we need."
Hughes has been given a vote of confidence by owner Tony Fernandes, who took to Twitter to voice his encouragement to his struggling team. "Good point," he tweeted. "Lots of work to do. Everton are a top side. We were unlucky with some ref calls ... Lots and lots of positives."
QPR is level on three points with Reading, with the two meeting at Loftus Road on November 4 in a match that could yet decide Hughes' future.