QUEENS Park Rangers secured a memorable victory against an ill-disciplined Chelsea side this afternoon.
An atmosphere to befit the occasion proved too hot to handle for some Chelsea players, with two given their marching orders and a plethora booked by referee Chris Foy.
David Luiz’s naive challenge saw Heidar Helguson net home a spot kick before Jose Bosingwa’s mistimed challenge and a reckless Didier Drogba tackle saw Chelsea down to nine.
From then on the title hopefuls lost their cool, truly being the architects of their own downfall, but nevertheless caused Rangers problems primarily down to the hosts inability to retain possession.
Nevertheless Rangers recorded a famous victory, their first against Chelsea since 1995 and go home with the bragging rights in a fiery West London derby.
Neil Warnock made two changes from the side that drew at home to Blackburn Rovers with Adel Taarabt and Clint Hill being reintroduced at the expense of Armand Traoré (injured) and Jamie Mackie.
Paddy Kenny lined up behind a back four of Luke Young, Fitz Hall, Anton Ferdinand and the aforementioned Hill – Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlín linked up in the the middle.
Joey Barton, Adel Taarabt and ex-Chelsea wide-man Shaun Wright-Phillips played in advance of the duo with Heidar Helguson the lone front-man.
For Chelsea Petr Cech started behind the back four of Jose Bosingwa, John Terry, David Luiz and Ashley Cole – with John Obi Mikel sitting deep.
Frank Lampard and Raul Meireles played in advance of the Nigerian with Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge playing off Didier Drogba.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v CHELSEA
The big day had finally arrived, Rangers supporters had feverishly searched the season’s fixture list during the summer for this particular encounter. Chelsea fixtures conjure up memories for many and today would be another chapter in the ongoing saga.
The two sides had not met at Loftus Road since Rangers were last in the top flight in 1996 and old rivalries were renewed as the two sides took to the field. The slow burning emotional journey had culminated with Rangers once again taking on the Blues.
Many fans were stating in advance that win, lose or draw they would have to leave it all on the pitch today. The opening to the encounter from the home side gave good indications that this mentality had been taken on by the players.
A useful early passage of play from the hosts saw them press Chelsea at every opportunity while attempting to mount their own counter-attacking style with the pace of Shaun Wright-Phillips and the brute strength of Heidar Helguson.
Chelsea were using the skill of Juan Mata and the raw pace of in-form Daniel Sturridge who was persistently cutting in from the right and looking to get some joy from the returning full-back Clint Hill.
The atmosphere was electric as Rangers played predominantly on the counter-attack – it was just inside the ten minute mark that the referee made a decisive call and it was to the benefit of the persistent hosts.
A long pass from Paddy Kenny found its way to Heidar Helguson in behind the poorly positioned David Luiz. The subsequent challenge could be described as naive at best as the Icelandic international was sent tumbling.
Chris Foy wasted little time in pointing to the spot, with Heidar Helguson carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders as he stepped forward to face off with experienced ‘keeper Petr Cech.
The front-man placed his penalty high to the left and despite Cech getting a hand to the effort he could not prevent Rangers taking the lead and sparking delirium around the ground at Loftus Road.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 CHELSEA
The noise around the ground was formidable and the players were certainly responding in kind and fighting hard in this keenly-contested West London derby. Rangers had struck the first goal and played like men possessed.
Chelsea’s tactic of passing the ball from the back has served them well at times, but this inflexible brand of play was causing them more problems than solutions as the hosts chased down every pass.
At times you would be forgiven for losing count the amount of times that Chelsea were caught in possession particularly with the likes of Shaun Derry forcing the issue in the heart of midfield.
Things went from bad to worse for the visiting side when they were reduced to ten men shortly after the half hour mark. Nice interchange from Taarabt and Wright-Phillips saw the latter hare away through the middle.
His run was halted by Jose Bosingwa as referee Foy dished out a red card with little hesitation. Whether it was denying a clear goalscoring opportunity was open to debate, but another timely blow had been dealt for the visiting side.
Adel Taarabt clipped a free-kick goal-bound, only for Cech the pluck the ball out of the air. Rangers were ecstatic, while Chelsea were left to contemplate the task ahead of them with inferior numbers and a goal behind.
Chelsea responded by sending on Branislav Ivanovic taking the place of the lively Sturridge. All they could offer in riposte were speculative long range drives. Raul Meireles’ effort was the most recent that flew wide of the left hand upright.
While the fixture was simmering it was Didier Drogba that brought matters to boiling point, a frankly farcical challenge on Taarabt a few moments before half time saw him given his marching orders.
Much like Armand Traoré against Aston Villa, he had truly let his team down with a senseless tackle to spark scenes of anarchy in the stands. Mr Foy once again had little hesitation, making an undoubtedly correct call on this occasion.
A bizarrely timed substitution by Villas-Boas saw Nicolas Anelka replace Juan Mata, a player rendered ineffectual following the succession of red cards. Anelka came on in injury time to offer an outlet up front in the absence of the petulant Drogba.
It brought the curtain down on an eventful first half in which Rangers had the upper hand. All the ingredients were there for another blockbuster second period as QPR did well to hold their temperament in a fiery first half.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 CHELSEA
Chelsea opened the second period with a sprightly attitude, sensing that as the game grew older the legs of eleven men would be able to cover more ground than nine. A couple of early corners amounted to relatively little but the intent was clear from the Blues.
The visiting side were rapidly losing their cool as in ten second half minutes Chelsea saw four players receive cautions. Despite their evident frustration at the match officials, the facts remained that the challenges were poor and the cards were justified.
The more notable of which was Shaun Derry’s clash with Frank Lampard – the England international had been truly snuffed out throughout the encounter and his evident frustration, along with compatriot John Terry saw them rightfully booked.
That second goal was proving elusive for Queens Park Rangers and as such it gave Chelsea some encouragement to try and pick the hosts off on the break – such was the nervous nature of the Rangers rearguard.
Luke Young was the next to spurn a delightful opportunity when a delightful reverse pass from Taarabt found the former Aston Villa full-back. Sadly however all he could do was meekly roll wide to Petr Cech`s right.
The fans continued to provide their side with that steely edge, and opportunities kept coming, predominantly on the counter-attack. Joey Barton found himself free on the right-hand side on several occasions, surging forward to support the attack.
Just after the hour mark Adel Taarabt was replaced and went down the tunnel with great haste – presumably he must have had a bus to catch. He was replaced by Tommy Smith, who immediately got on the wrong side of the confrontational John Terry.
The aforementioned Barton surged down the right flank unchallenged and nearly doubled the advantage, his right footed drive flew wide of the right hand upright once more, as the hosts justifiably bit their nails.
Some slack marking from Chelsea should have seen Rangers over the line as Barton`s cross from the right found Helguson unmarked. The striker could only blaze over with his weaker foot to keep the one goal advantage intact.
The longer the game progressed, the more that the supporters felt that there was certainly the potential for more goals. They were nearly proven right when Ivanovic`s cross fell perfectly for Anelka only for the French to nod into the arms of Kenny.
A sigh of relief could be heard around Loftus Road as Jamie Mackie was introduced at the expense of the combative Derry. The ball was kicked out by Kenny because of the injury to the defender, but the so called ‘aristocracy of football` showed a less than classy side.
A conversation was held between Cole and Terry and they decided to show a lack of sportsmanship by continuing with the game – albeit an unwritten rule, but nevertheless showed a distinct lack of class and dignity.
The disappointing consequence of this passage was a chance for Chelsea as a cross found David Luiz, whose spectacular over-head kick deflected over the right hand upright – it would have been controversial stuff indeed had he managed to notch in this spell of possession.
Chelsea poured forward in injury time, including a late surge forward from ‘keeper Cech in the final foray of the fixture – it was to no avail however as the referee brought down the curtain on an afternoon that will live long in the memory.
FINAL WHISTLE: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 CHELSEA
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Kenny, Hill, Derry (Mackie 82), Hall, Taarabt (Smith 62), Faurlin, Barton, Young, Helguson, Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand.
Cech, Cole, Luiz, Lampard, Mata (Anelka 45), Drogba, Mikel, Meireles (Malouda 73), Bosingwa, Sturridge (Ivanovic 36), Terry.