Chelsea left it late to claim the three points at Loftus Road as the league leaders got the win after a drab display. Cesc Fabregas produced the Blues’ only shot on target and the only goal of the game with just minutes to go to save the visitors’ blushes. Despite the poor performance, this win sees the table topper now just four wins from the title with seven games to go.
The lack of goals could be explained with a glance at the starting line-up, as Jose Mourinho went into the match without either of his two first choice strikers. Diego Costa has started a month on the side-lines with a hamstring injury, whilst Loic Remy suffered a calf injury ahead of the trip to QPR. That left Didier Drogba up front, supported by Cesc Fabregas. Youngster Izzy Brown was the reserve forward on the bench.
The first half was a scrappy affair, and as expected the visitors received a hostile reception from the home support. John Terry received the worst treatment, although the QPR faithful rounded on Eden Hazard as well. There was a local derby atmosphere, despite there being a big gulf between the two sides, and that played a part in this becoming a rather disjointed match.
Several Chelsea stars seemed rattled by both the crowd and the high energy pressing game used by QPR. One notable moment in the first half came when Branislav Ivanovic and Didier Drogba exchanged heated words across the pitch after the Ivorian failed to make himself available at a throw in. Rangers were doing their best to match the visitors physically, and they were succeeding.
The strugglers also had chances; they came close to worrying Thibaut Courtois on a few occasions. An effort from Charlie Austin and two from Matt Phillips were denied by the Belgian stopper, who was the best of a bad bunch as far as Mourinho’s side were concerned. He kept the team in the match, whereas the rest were struggling to string passes together. Their 70% pass completion rate was their worst so far this campaign.
As the match ticked on, the game looked set to finish goalless. The league leaders began to take control again late on, but given that they had yet to force Rob Green into a save it didn’t seem like a goal was coming. It was Green’s poor clearance that gave the Pensioners the breakthrough however. His skewed hoof fell to Hazard, and some neat interplay between him and Oscar set up Fabregas for the late slotted winner.
Once again, it wasn’t an inspiring performance from Chelsea, but it was enough to move ever closer to the title. With Manchester City losing again, they look out of it now. The Blues currently lead Arsenal by seven points and United by eight, with a game in hand on both. And, it just so happens that those two teams are the next two opponents for Mourinho’s side, so two wins from those and the title is all but assured.
LCN Man of the Match: Thibaut Courtois