QUEENS Park Rangers can take great pride in their display despite going down by a solitary goal at West London rivals Chelsea.
The Premier League leaders broke the deadlock just under ten minutes into the second half when Salomon Kalou latched on to a through ball before stoking home from close range.
The Blues’ 100% record remained intact but not without some significant scares in the first period, with Akos Buzsaky going close for QPR.
As it was Chelsea had the wealth of possession following Kalou’s strike, but the spirit, passion and endeavour from Rangers would have won over many sceptical supporters this evening.
Queens Park Rangers made two changes from the side that was victorious over Cardiff City at the weekend, with Manchester United loanee Tom Heaton coming in for Radek Cerny, while Alejandro Faurlín came in for the ineligible Ben Watson.
The back four consisted of Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and the ever-present Gary Borrowdale. While Faurlín joined Wayne Routledge, Martin Rowlands and Akos Buzsaky in midfield.
Rowan Vine roamed in behind lone striker Jay Simpson with a view to rekindling their flourishing weekend partnership, with the Arsenal loanee bagging a useful brace in South Wales.
Chelsea were able to name a strong line-up for the visit of QPR, with Joe Cole making his first start of the season while Russian international Yuri Zhirkov began his Chelsea career at left back after signing from CSKA Moscow in the summer.
Henriqué Hillario sat behind a defence of Zhirkov, Sam Hutchinson, Branko Ivanovic and Portugese international Paulo Ferriera. In midfield Juliano Belletti, John Mikel Obi, Cole and Florent Malouda, with Fabio Borini and Salomon Kalou in attack.
An experienced bench consisted of the talent of Michael Essien and England trio John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard.
Kick Off: Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers
As the game kicked off on a mild evening at Stamford Bridge vast amounts of noise could be heard from a boisterous 6,000 travelling support that populated the Shed End. The Rangers fans were hoping that their side could go one better than their previous trip and pull off a cup shock.
Chelsea’s early possession displayed their credentials even from a fringe line-up, Joe Cole in particular was seeing a lot of the ball in and around the middle of the park. Their creativity however was tempered by the work ethic of the Rangers midfield, typified by the bustling skipper Martin Rowlands.
The hosts could have gone in front in the early stages when French international Florent Malouda burst his way into the box from the left flank. His powerful drive was well held by loanee Tom Heaton at his near post.
Heaton making only his second start for QPR was called into action once again moments later when play switched to the other flank and Salomon Kalou. The Ivorian hit the ball on the rise and it was thwarted in similar fashion by the tidy work of Heaton.
While Chelsea continued to create space despite persistent Rangers pressure, the R’s themselves were by no means overawed and Rowan Vine in particular was giving the Chelsea rearguard food for thought with his pacy and purposeful running.
Another player that didn’t look out of place was Wayne Routledge, the former Spurs and Aston Villa man laid on a good chance for Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson – but the forward snatched at his chance as it cleared Hillario’s cross-bar.
In a fast-paced first half Chelsea had the best chance of the fixture with the youngster Fabio Borini going close. More useful work from debutante Zhirkov down the left saw him carve out a near post cross for the young Italian.
Borini pulled away from his marker to glance his header wide of the left-hand upright. The chance had Heaton rooted with hearts in mouths of the travelling army from down the road.
Routledge again proved a constant thorn in the side to the hosts, as he made his way across the pitch with a skilful, mazy run. He beat off three challenges before finding a pass to Hungarian Akos Buzsaky.
The Magical Magyar was afforded the time and space to cut inside on his stronger right foot, and his subsequent effort curled towards Hillario’s left hand upright but fading away at the crucial moment.
For the first time in the game the R’s had the upper hand with yet more enterprising running from Routledge after a useful pass from skipper Rowlands. The tricky winger squared the ball for Alejandro Faurlín to strike left footed – unfortunately for the Argentine the ball sat up nicely for the Chelsea stopper to make the save.
Chelsea were looking for that spark of creativity to unlock a stubborn Rangers rearguard, marshalled by the outstanding Kaspars Gorkss, the Latvian international having returned to the side against Cardiff at the weekend.
Even the vast talent of Joe Cole was finding difficulty in creating space with the ever-present Rowlands snuffing out the majority of Chelsea attacks in their infancy. The patient play of Faurlín alongside him made for interesting competition in the middle of the park.
There was enough time for another Rangers opportunity before the break, with Mikele Leigertwood attempting a speculative left-footed drive from distance. Although he has proven his talent with his weaker foot this season, on this occasion the ball drifted harmlessly over the bar.
If Chelsea weren’t away that their closest neighbours were going to give them a tough challenge then after a relatively even first period they were soon coming to terms with the idea as Ancelotti’s men would have to regroup for the second period.
Half Time: Chelsea 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Paul Furlong was paraded around the pitch at half time to the adulation of all supporters, in particular the Rangers fans gave their thanks for his immense contribution to the QPR promotion side by chanting, ‘There’s only one Furlong’ one last time for the forward.
The former AC Milan boss Ancelotti responded to his side’s lacklustre nature by introducing England midfielder Frank Lampard to the fold. He replaced Malouda as Chelsea changed to a 4-4-2 formation with Kalou partnering Borini up front.
Both sides starting the second period as they began the first with a decent pace being deployed by both sides, but the desired cutting edge eluded the two teams. Chelsea constantly threatened to get behind the rearguard with little follow through to display their possessional dominance.
Rowan Vine then showed his creative credentials by rolling a beautifully weighted through ball for Routledge. It was a straight race between the winger and Hillario, but the Spanish keeper managed to snuff out the attack in the thinnest of margins.
With QPR in the ascendance, Chelsea hit the visitors with a sucker-punch on the break with Kalou on hand to roll home after a string of referee horror shows from referee Mike Jones.
The select list official failed to spot a foul by Belletti on Routledge, who in credit to him attempted to stay on his feet with the biting challenge. The ball was cleared to the halfway line with Lampard handling the ball before playing a delightful through ball to Salomon Kalou.
The Ivorian forward appeared offside as he cut inside his marker and rolled the ball into the bottom right hand corner via the upright. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rangers who had been undone not only by sheer class, but also incompetency.
GOAL: Chelsea 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
The QPR supporters raised the volume levels behind the goal as their side would require an immense support to haul themselves level against an experienced Chelsea line-up.
They earned themselves a series of corners that were ultimately fruitless, but the signs that nerves were growing in the Chelsea rearguard with Hillario miscommunicating with his backline and flattening two defenders in attempting to clear a set-piece.
While Rangers continued to strive forward in search of an equaliser, the hosts were proving potent on the counter-attack with young Borini looking to net his first strike for the Blues.
The hosts were beginning to dominate possession with QPR having to work hard to regain the ball and create opportunities of his own. While it was still one goal the R’s were never truly out of the game as a contest, as proved by Buzsaky’s effort moments later.
The Hungarian drove forward from the middle of the park before unleashing a dipping, venomous drive from 35-yards. It sent Hillario sprawling down his right as he had to tip the ball around the post and away to safety.
In a bid to freshen up the Rangers attacking threat Jim Magilton threw on Spurs loanee Adel Taarabt for Rowan Vine with a view to playing a similar role in behind Jay Simpson. He had an immediate impact on the fixture and looked to be the spark the R’s required to get back into the game.
Unfortunately his star began to wane as the Chelsea defence discovered his biggest frailty – running down blind alleys and unable to find the key pass to unlock the home rearguard. Trickery unbridled but the ability to pick a pass was lacking.
Magilton made a double change with Hogan Ephraim and Alessandro Pellicori replacing Martin Rowlands and Jay Simpson, with Mikele Leigertwood taking the captains armband. Barely moments on the field and Ephraim was hauled off after a nasty cut on his forehead.
It was beginning to look more desperate for Rangers as the hosts held the ball effectively and stifled Rangers’ creative flow in the areas that mattered. Rowlands’ bite was sorely missed as Chelsea continued to scythe the midfield open with Lampard the key tormentor.
In a testament to Rangers’ attacking threat England international John Terry was brought on to sure things up at the back. From then on Pellicori struggled to win the ball in the air with the England skipper using every trick in the book to deny the sizeable Italian.
The final chance of the fixture fell to Chelsea when Joe Cole roamed away down the right before firing an effort at Heaton’s near post – the Manchester United keeper pulling off an excellent save at his near post with Kaspars Gorkss clearing away.
A first half performance full of drive and endeavour ran out of steam once Kalou hit the back of the net – one thing is for certain QPR put in a display full of heart and passion, and came up narrowly short to an experienced Chelsea side.
The away supporters went away cheering their side from the rafters with Magilton and Gorman sending their men over to the forever-noisy travelling fans. A performance that promises a lot for Rangers’ league form, coming up narrowly short against a side with a 100% record.
Final Whistle: Chelsea 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Henriqué Hillario, Paulo Ferreira, Branko Ivanovic, Sam Hutchinson (John Terry 77), Yuri Zhirkov (Ashley Cole 69), John Mikel Obi, Juliano Belletti, Florent Malouda (Frank Lampard 46), Joe Cole, Salomon Kalou, Fabio Borini.
Queens Park Rangers
Tom Heaton, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Martin Rowlands (Hogan Ephraim 74), Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Akos Buzsaky, Rowan Vine (Adel Taarabt 66), Jay Simpson (Alessandro Pellicori 74).
Tom Heaton – 7/10
The goalkeeper impressed in his second game for the R’s with some cool handling and shot stopping under pressure. He kept Chelsea at bay on no less than three occasions during the game but came out with immense credit for a good display.
The Manchester United loanee did absolutely nothing wrong on the day and it will be a shame for him having to relinquish his spot to Radek Cerny at the weekend.
Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
The full back showed well on occasions and was strong in the challenge and going forward. He was found wanting defensively on a couple of occasions in behind as Zhirkov and Malouda were able to find all too much space in the first period.
In the second period Kalou managed to get in behind the former Palace man and score the all-important goal, and despite a useful spell of possession coming forward he couldn’t make amends for that crucial error.
Kaspars Gorkss – 8/10
The Latvian international was once again entirely dominant at the centre of defence alongside Damion Stewart. He was dominant in the aerial battle against Borini and Kalou and strong in the tackle when it was required.
He never sat off and waited for the attack to unfold, always quick to come out of defence and put sufficient pressure on the Chelsea attackers. An all round good display for a player that didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
Stewart was once again positive in defence and dominant in the aerial challenge. In truth Chelsea didn’t have much to say in terms of the aerial battle with Gorkss and Stewart thoroughly dominant.
Chelsea’ main strength was getting in behind in the full-back region, much to the disappointment of the central defensive pairing who displayed their credentials as the arguably the best pairing outside the Premier League.
Gary Borrowdale – 6/10
The full back found this step up one step too far as Chelsea got in behind the defender far too often for comfort. In particular Salomon Kalou who managed to break free of Gary on a couple of occasions to get a shot away.
Borrowdale may well be the answer at Championship level, with a solid display on Saturday, but the attacking talent that Chelsea possess was a bridge too far for him and Rangers on the day.
Wayne Routledge – 8/10
The QPR winger as previously mentioned didn’t look out of place anywhere on the field as he switched flanks a couple of times and looked inside to carve out some attacking options for the visitors.
In particular his assist for Akos Buzsaky in the first period deserved a goal as he skipped over several challenges before finding that killer pass. Sadly the finish eluded Buzsaky on QPR. He is on fire and Barnsley will have to beware at the weekend.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
Plenty of hustle and bustle from Rowlands in the middle of the park with strong tackles at the forefront of a commanding midfield display. He and Faurlín linked up well together at times as they looked to establish a partnership in the middle.
One thing that eluded him was the attacking prowess that he displayed against Cardiff at the weekend. No real chances or cutting edge from the skipper, and the game died a death upon his withdrawal.
Alejandro Damián Faurlín – 7/10
Faurlín was that cool assured head that Rangers desired in the middle of the park as the majority of the Argentine’s passes ended in a positive move. He was keen for Rangers to keep hold of the ball and gave it to more creative players to engineer attacks.
He didn’t shirk a tackle either as Mikel soon knew he was in a battle with Faurlín putting his leg in where it mattered. One criticism could have been that while he was cool he did slow play down a tad when on the counter-attack.
Akos Buzsaky – 7/10
Buzsaky stepped up to be one of Rangers’ strike players this evening. A couple of efforts from distance could have been better placed but nevertheless had Hillario worried at times.
In the first period he had a glorious chance to open the scoring, but his effort despite close, dipped away from the target. A rasping second half effort could have drawn the R’s level but it wasn’t to be.
Rowan Vine – 7/10
A sterling first half display, tempered by a quiet second half summed up Vine’s performance on the day. The former Birmingham man showed how dangerous he can be in the first half, using the by-line effectively but unable to pick that telling pass.
In the second half Vine rarely got a touch of the ball as Chelsea took hold of the clash, he was rightfully replaced as his influenced waned.
Jay Simpson – 6/10
Simpson found the going tough this evening with Ivanovic looking imperial in his defensive work against the Arsenal loanee. Simpson rarely found the space to breathe with support from his fellow midfielders.
He had one shot on goal which he fairly snatched at as it drifted into the upper tier behind the goal. He will look for an improvement this weekend as the R’s travel to Barnsley.
SUB: Adel Taarabt – 6/10
Replaced Rowan Vine 66
Adel showed glimpses to the crowd of why he is one of the most frustrating players to support. The lad is incredibly talented and a spark of creativity, but he couldn’t find that killer pass or shot to finish off a flowing move.
The Moroccan international’s running woke QPR from their slumber in the second period but nevertheless wasn’t enough to try and break through three markers when a pass was glaring.
SUB: Hogan Ephraim – 5/10
Replaced Martin Rowlands 74
The winger looked lively in possession but rarely looked like creating any chances of note in the final 15 minutes. He was content to come inside and lay off the pass than go outside of his man and get his ball across for Pellicori.
The lack of wingwork from Ephraim made his introduction slightly redundant and perhaps Patrick Agyemang may have been a more suitable option from the bench.
Replaced Jay Simpson 74
The Italian forward looked fairly lively coming from the bench but rarely got the opportunity to display his aerial skills with Rangers seemingly unable to regain or retain possession of the ball.
Wayne Routledge saw little of the ball in the later stages with no real outlet to use Pellicori’s height advantage. He was bullied by John Terry upon the defender’s introduction and didn’t look like breaking the deadlock once Chelsea sured up their rearguard.
Jim Magilton: 7/10 – Magilton will be delighted with the passion and commitment his side showed against strong opposition and for holding a solid side so long in a cup fixture.
QPR played with great ambition and enterprise in the opening period and if they could have matched that calibre of display in the second Chelsea would have had plenty more to worry about.
It’s a positive message to send the supporters as Rangers host Barnsley in the league on Saturday in search of their first home win of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti: 8/10 – He will be delighted that his side has come out of the game unscathed, with a win and some excellent game time for Joe Cole and Zhirkov.
It was a professional job by the Italian’s men who will have been pleased to go into the break level-pegging after a good showing from the visitors in the first period.
Ultimately his key players turned the screw in the second half with Kalou applying the finish to put pay to QPR’s victory ambitions at the Bridge.
Mike Jones: 4/10 – A rather poor performance from a man who seemed to enjoy being on first name terms with player from a Premier League club. Some dubious calls were made with regards to offside, with several clear cut decisions not being given by his assistants.
The referee seemed to be easily intimidated and a lot of decisions went the hosts’ way when a 50/50 decision could have been made. So many times you hear Premier League new boys complain about the decisions the big-boys get, and QPR witnessed that first-hand this evening.
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