Chelsea have had tough matches away and indeed at home to QPR over the last four years, as you might expect of a west London derby, so given the recent history and both teams need for points for entirely different reasons it is perhaps no surprise that this was another hard fort battle.
Mourinho was without Costa and Remy, the latter due to a knock to his knee picked up in training the day before the match, so Drogba started up front. Jose also adjusted the shape of the side slightly, switching to a 4-3-3 with Ramires coming into the midfield three with Fabregas and Matic. QPR utilised a 4-4-2, which most likely was one of the reasons for Mourinho switching shape, to try and take a control of the midfield. If that was the plan, it didn’t come to fruition.
The first half was an extremely scrappy affair. QPR looked to get the ball forward to their centre forward pairing of Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora as early as they could. This drew us into a battle early on, reminiscent of the second half away at West Ham earlier in the season. Zamora and Austin got some change out of this tactic early on, but overall were marshalled extremely well by both Terry and Cahill. Both centre backs were dominant in their aerial duals, and covered runners well on the deck.
Although Terry and Cahill were able to win the ball from most QPR attacks, we seemed unable to build any ourselves. The way we were dealing with QPR’s attacks seemed to result in us heading balls clear back to them. In the first half of the twenty aerial duels there were in our half, we won all but three of them. In addition we made twenty-four headed clearances.
Our midfield couldn’t get control of the match. QPR squeezed their lines to help eliminate the one-man deficit they had in midfield, and we couldn’t find players in influential areas on the pitch. Fabregas drifted to the left of the midfield area to try and stretch the Rangers midfield, from here he was able to play balls in to runners from midfield, namely Ramires and Hazard, but little came from this. Joey Barton was having a very good match in the centre of midfield, recovering the ball well; he started a lot of their attacks as well.
It was a half bereft of attacking chances, Ramires with the first good chance on the half hour mark. Hazard ran on with the ball down the left, coming inside to Fabregas, who played it back out to Drogba who had pulled wide to the left flank, the on rushing Ramires met his cross first time at the near post but could only direct it wide.
The best chance of the half was indicative of QPR’s attacking efforts. A long ball forward flew over Terry’s head and was knocked down by Zamora for Austin on the edge of the area, his right foot volley was struck cleanly and with power, and Courtois had to dive full length to his right to parry to safety. Fabregas had a good chance at the end of the half, Ivanovic crossing from deep, Drogba missed the ball with an attempted shot and it found it’s way to Fabregas running in at the far post but his header went over the bar.
It had been a poor half, both in standard and performance. We had been dragged into a battle again and hadn’t been able to play our usual fluid style.
QPR came out fired up for the second half, no doubt sensing that they had a chance of getting something here. Phillips in swinging cross from the right evaded everyone and had to be dealt with by Courtois. This was shortly followed by a free kick on the right, Drogba’s headed clearance hit Azpilicueta and fell to Henry, who swept it out to the left where Hill whipped a dangerous ball in that Courtois dived to claim as players ran across him. One of who was Austin who left his foot in on Courtois.
As a team our use of possession was still not at it’s usual standard, just under half of our passes in the attacking third in the second half were given away.
Our first chance of the half came with an hour on the clock, a corner won at the near post by Drogba, which found Ivanovic dead centre of the six yard box and unmarked, but it was slightly in front of him and his diving header went across goal. Soon after down the other end, and QPR worked the ball into Phillips, who easily turned Matic in the area and forced Courtois into another good save to tip round the post to his left.
With fifteen minutes left we started to get more control of the match, building attacks more patiently, working the ball across the pitch. By now Oscar had replaced Ramires, staying in the same shape, but he was drifting to the right, and he brought an impetus with him we had been lacking. Hazard fired over after the ball arrived to him following a corner.
Cuadrado replaced Willian with ten minutes left, and the pressure was building.
QPR still threatened though, a corner inadvertently flicked on at the near post by Drogba reached Austin, whose shot was blocked by Cahill, on the rebound it was deflected by Cahill again, and Courtois made the save.
Into the 88th minute, Robert Green fluffed his kick, Hazard picked it up on the left, played a one-two with Oscar and cut into the area on the left, he picked out the run of Fabregas, who slotted home first time at the near post. This was sweet; it felt hugely important in the scheme of things. Late into the match after not having played particularly well, the fact it was against QPR at Loftus road made it even better.
With Manchester United and Arsenal to come, they are most certainly important points to get on the board. It is results like this that help to put a title challenge together.
Green; Isla, (Dunne 92), Onuoha, Caulker, Hill;
Phillips, Barton, Sandro, (Kranjcar 81), Henry;
Austin, Zamora, (Hoilett 83)
Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry©, Cahill, Azpilicueta;
Matic, Ramires, (Oscar 56), Fabregas, (Zouma 92),
Willian, Drogba, Hazard.