Wright-Phillips strikes late to stun Chelsea
SOCCER: Chelsea 0 QPR 1: It had been difficult to find anything that was not stacked against Queens Park Rangers in this derby or their crusade to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. A couple of statistics stood out. They had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1983.
And only one club that has entered New Year’s Day at the foot of the Premier League table has avoided relegation.
The obstacles merely added gloss to a performance and result that will live long in the memories of every QPR fan that witnessed it.
Harry Redknapp’s team rode their luck at times, particularly during a Chelsea purple patch early in the second half. The visitors were indebted to their rugged defending and to the goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
QPR could revel in a fairytale winner from the former Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, who had come on as an early substitute.
After Oscar had only half-cleared a corner and Adel Taarabt rolled the ball invitingly for Wright-Phillips, he hit a first-time right-footed drive of such beauty, timing and power from outside the area that it would have been an insult had it not swelled the far corner.
It was the classic game of two halves. The first one was dire; the second was absorbing and, ultimately, glorious for QPR. They will now sense what might have appeared beyond them.
QPR did not need to see their in-form opponents catch an early break and when they did, it had felt slightly ominous. Marko Marin’s lunge on Stephane Mbia in the third minute was high, late and the sort of challenge that brings gasps and winces with each replay.
The German winger was probably overtaken by exuberance and the desire to impress on his full Premier League debut but, after he had overrun the ball, his impact just below Mbia’s knee made it something of a surprise that the referee Lee Mason reached only for his yellow card. Mason was the official that sent off QPR’s Shaun Derry at Manchester United last season for the non-foul on Ashley Young. QPR’s retribution came from Derry on 37 minutes. It was not quite a clothes line but the outstretched arm that collared Marin merited a booking, which did not come.
Redknapp had loaded his midfield and asked Taarabt to work his magic as a false nine. He lost Junior Hoilett to injury just before the Roberto Di Matteo minute, when the Stamford Bridge crowd salutes their former manager, who wore number 16 as a player, and the visitors put everything into their efforts to press and contain.
Their opening was a far cry from the dismal showing at home to Liverpool on Sunday. It was cagey and ugly in the first half. After Marin’s tackle, there was further alarm when David Luiz thudded into his team-mate Oscar in an aerial collision. Like Mbia, Oscar somehow regained his feet as though nothing had happened. Mason was also central when Ryan Bertrand felt that he had been clipped by Jamie Mackie as he burst into the area. The full-back was outside the box. Mason was unmoved.
The entertainment value was low but QPR did not care, as they scrapped for the result that could bring hope. Several players departed for the interval bearing the scars of a derby battle. Redknapp’s team looked to punch on the counter and Wright-Phillips took one pass from Esteban Granero and sent a shot wide.
Otherwise, the pattern was established. Chelsea hogged the territorial advantage but, when the half-time whistle went, they had failed to prise QPR apart. David Luiz volleyed into the ground and over the crossbar from a Victor Moses deflected cross, Fernando Torres’s touch deserted him when he was well placed following a corner and Oscar twice had sightings. The pickings were slim.
Wright-Phillips, though, sparked delirium with his goal and when Ivanovic’s flicked header drifted inches wide, QPR knew that it would be their night at Stamford Bridge.