Queens Park Rangers pulled off a stunning victory over Chelsea on Sunday, winning the West London Derby 1-0 in a heated match that featured two red-cards and a penalty from Heidar Helguson.
In front of a boisterous home crowd that deafened the ground from whistle to whistle, Chelsea's world class squad delivered an unusually sloppy performance that the home side met with fierce resistance. Match referee Chris Foy added his own fireworks, sending off Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba in the first half to put the visitors on the back foot. The home team did the rest, playing a patient and controlled game to see out the thrilling win over their neighbours.
Winning covers up for a lot of mistakes, and in the post-mortem QPR will have to take a long look at themselves after giving Chelsea so many opportunities to get back into the game when they were down to only nine men. But regardless of the circumstances, taking three points from one of the league's best is a day no QPR fan shall soon forget.
From the kick-off QPR looked much more prepared than they have in weeks, knocking good passes between each other and calmly stepping in to hold Chelsea's initial probes. Daniel Sturridge had a chance in the first few minutes, and Faurlin and Hill came together to shut him down and force him to shoot wide.
The first of several good breaks came to QPR in the tenth minute, when Heidar Helguson was pushed from behind by defender David Luiz while chasing a ball in box. The spot was pointed to, and Helguson coolly tapped one in, despite a late hand from Petr Cech nearly saving it. It was an early shock and the already rocking crowd roared as the net bulged. No QPR fixture would be complete without a bit of drama and our reigning stars did their best to create one, as Adel Taarabt was demanding the ball to take the penalty, and Joey Barton, wearing the armband, waved his finger and told him no. This was another of those little moments, that seem to be building to something bigger behind the scenes, where the older men are showing less and less patience for Taarabt and his prima dona attitude. Fans have to wonder when this combustible mix will erupt.
Frank Lampard gave Chelsea a decent look a few moments later when he received a pass from Raul Meireles, but rocketed it high over the bar. Lampard was a threat all day, creating chances and taking a few of his own. Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt recovered from a strong Blues effort to build up along the flanks, but the run was nullified when Shaun Wright-Philips was dispossessed at the other end. Lampard returned the favour with a strong run up the middle of the pitch that set up Ashley Cole for a shot, which he pushed wide left. The defence started strong, but was exposed on a quick break, set up again by Lampard, that nearly put Juan Mata in for a goal. His pass was a yard ahead of the Spaniard and Paddy Kenny snatched it away to prevent what looked like an early goal for the visitors. Shortly thereafter, things took another surprising turn in Ranger's favour.
Adel Taarabt made great pass on the left flank to Shaun Wright-Philips, who was battling Jose Bosingwa for position. The two collided, replays showing later that Bosingwa grabbed a bit of his shorts on the way down, and SWP was denied a goal scoring opportunity. The ref immediately flashed the red and put an outraged Chelsea squad on the defensive. Taarabt curled a beautiful free kick at the far corner but the unflappable Cech grabbed it and denied Rangers a second bite at the apple.
The two sides continued to fight for position and in equal turns showed moments of good build up and strong passing. For their part, QPR had less possession but did better with it than they have recently, using their passes to hold off the Chelsea midfield and work into some good positions. They created few chances on net, but did a solid job of retaining the ball when they had it and making Chelsea chase them.
Chelsea would see red again before the half, as Didier Drogba came in with both feet to tackle Adel Taarabt at midfield. Despite his protests, and independent of the first call which the commentators took issue with, the tough challenge was an easy decision for the ref and another break that went in QPR's way. Chelsea ended the first half down a goal and missing two men, with Nicolas Anelka coming on in relief.
The second half was a different game altogether, and if truth be told, Chelsea won it in every regard but the one that matters. Despite the two man disadvantage, Chelsea found themselves with lanes to work in, sometimes yards and yards of space to push in on QPR's net and more chances than a shortened team should ever be allowed. They are top quality, without a doubt, but there simply is no excuse for defenders getting as out worked and out positioned as the R's were in the second half, particularly as the game went on. It's a credit to Chelsea's skill - and a red flag about QPR's - that they nearly stole a win despite all the things that went wrong for them. This has been a disturbing trend for Rangers - strong starts and weak finishes - that has to be addressed in the locker room if they hope to keep having days as good as this one.
The other issue that stood out late was discipline - Fitz Hall and later Heidar Helguson both committed questionable fouls in the penalty area, and with a ref as eager to hand out cards and involve himself in the decision as Foy was, players have to be more conscious of what they're doing. Helguson's was the more egregious, and more surprising from a senior player who is a leader on the pitch. Emotions were boiling over as the match went on, but knowing how razor thin the line was, he needed to avoid stepping on it and was lucky to get away without conceding a penalty of his own.
Anelka had a fantastic opportunity in the last ten minutes, driving in to nail a header that Paddy Kenny saved from point blank range. Kenny was difference between a thrilling win and a gutting loss today and should get a pat on the back from every fan celebrating this win. Anelka nearly struck again a few minutes later, opting instead to set up David Luiz on a silly bicycle kick that also could have put them level before bouncing over the bar. He's no Rooney in more ways than just hair - had he waited for a proper volley we might be singing a much sadder tune today.
QPR got a win today and should enjoy the feeling, not only over a London rival but over one the league's best teams. To deny that some things went their way is to ignore the facts, but the R's hard work with the opportunities given them merited a win. They should be proud of the result, but need to focus on clearing up some of the gaps in their back play that allowed Chelsea so many runs late in the game. By the same token they did regain some composure as the clock wound down and the fourth official signalled an additional five minutes. QPR took possession again and made Chelsea work hard to gain anything. It was a fantastic result, and there was plenty to cheer about.
Chelsea will of course claim that this was a stolen game and all attributable to the referee and some calls that didn't go their way. They're right that they had some tough breaks, and the constant look of exasperation on John Terry's face was not altogether undeserved. Foy called a tight game and handed Chelsea nine cards on the day. Not all were truly earned, but there was plenty of complaining due on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, Chelsea also didn't come to this game with much fire, playing slow and giving QPR plenty of time to work their possessions and make their own chances happen. The Super Hoops worked hard and made the most of their chances, earning a win that they badly needed.
They may not take any silverware home this season, but at least for now, West London belongs to the R's!