Team: Green, Isla, Dunne, Caulker, Suk-Young, Vargas, Henry, Sandro, Hoilett (Zamora), Fer (Traore), Austin.
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Hill, Kranjcar, Wright-Phillips.
Attendance: 41,486 (including 2,960 R’s fans)
Jose Mourinho launched a withering attack on the lack of atmosphere generated by Chelsea supporters after their 2-1 victory against QPR, saying it felt like his side were playing at an “empty stadium”.
“Everyone knows how much I feel connected to this club and the fans,” he told TalkSport. “But at this moment it’s difficult for us to play at home, because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.”
“The team then starts playing like it’s a quiet, soft game at home. It’s difficult to get that strong start where the players, team and fans (are all together), I was today looking around and it was empty, but not in terms of people because it was obviously full. That is what is frustrating.”
Oscar’s opening goal for Chelsea came two minutes after the floodlights had been switched on – a moment that Mourinho said helped enliven the quiet crowd. “I think the man responsible for the lights was in the same mood as the crowd, because everybody was sleeping.
He took 20 minutes to understand that it was dark, but I took 30 minutes to understand that the stadium was not empty. When we scored was when I realised – Woah, the stadium is full. Good.”
Mourinho also admitted being culpable for his team’s lack of impetus. He added: “It was my responsibility. I was not intense, they are not intense”
Rob Green insisted the best away support he has ever experienced at Stamford Bridge was on Saturday. The QPR keeper has been to Chelsea with West Ham and Norwich in the past, but was blown over by the 3,000 R’s fans who out-sung the home crowd – a point made by frustrated Blues boss Jose Mourhino.
Chelsea squeezed home 2-1, but Green was heartened by a good Rangers performance – the best away this season, he reckoned.
“We’ve been to other clubs of a similar stature and got turned over,” he said. “Once we got that goal we looked as if we would put them under pressure and it was a real blow to concede the second. It’s a mile apart from other performances this season.”
Green had his own fans to his right in the first-half, but could hear them just as clearly when he was 100 yards away in the second 45.
“The fans were fantastic,” he added. “That’s the biggest following I’ve ever seen at Stamford Bridge. At the other end I could hear them as well. Ok, they didn’t have to travel very far, but it’s been great before that. At Southampton, they filled out the away end, and at West Ham. It’s deeply appreciated by everyone in the dressing room.”
Green revealed striker Eduardo Vargas was inconsolable after nudging Eden Hazard for the winning penalty – a spot kick described as ‘harsh’ by boss Harry Redknapp. However, Green was edging the other way over the game changer by referee Mike Jones.
“It’s one where there’s contact in the box and he’s (Vargas) not won the ball,” the keeper said. “Anywhere else on the pitch and he might have got away with it, or any other stadium at home it might not have been given. It was only his honesty and endeavour to get back and help the lads.”
“Eduardo works so hard for a forward to play in that role, and he’s been fantastic and was distraught in the dressing room.”
Chelsea continue to set the pace at the top of the Premier League but their stride does not look unbreakable. Jose Mourinho knows that, which is why he spent much of this West London derby seething on the side-lines, his team requiring a late penalty to overcome a lowly but tenacious Queen’s Park Rangers side.
“My team did not play well, or well enough,” huffed Mourinho. “It was not what I was expecting. We had periods of good football, but not consistently. I was expecting more. There is no doubt we deserve the points but one thing is to deserve and another is to deserve and play very well, which we didn’t.”
Chelsea were mostly dominant but at times sloppy. They seemed capable of blowing away visitors who had suffered heavy defeats in all of their away trips this season, yet they also betrayed a fragility that meant they wound up grateful to cling on to all three points. Their spluttering irritated their manager. “It was periods, 10 to 15 minutes here, 10 to 15 minutes there, said Mourinho.
“We were playing against a very well organised defensive team where everyone knew the job they had to do. It was fantastic work by Harry and they gave us a tough match. But with our quality I would expect us to be stronger.”
Mourinho had deployed his most powerful available line-up, with the fit-again Diego Costa returning to the side after almost a month out, as Chelsea made no concession to the forthcoming trip to Maribor in the Champions League nor next weekend’s showdown with Liverpool. Mourinho evidently wants his team to continue stretching their lead in the Premier League, especially after last weekend’s last-minute stumble at Old Trafford.
At first it seemed that QPR would be submissive opponents, as the visitors surrendered possession straight from kick-off, inviting two minutes of pressure during which Chelsea threatened with three successive corners.
It soon transpired, however, that Rangers were in obstinate mood and, with Sandro excelling at the base of a five-man central midfield, Chelsea toiled to create chances despite near-constant possession. Sporadic, counter-attacks by the visitors even evoked memories of Rangers’ last visit here, in January 2013, when they pilfered a 1-0 victory.
Costa looked short of sharpness but did produce a foxy drag-back and pass in the 10th minute to dink the ball to Oscar, who dabbed a soft shot wide from 12 yards. A minute later, the ever dangerous full-back Branislav Ivanovic made the stealthy run of a natural predator to collect a through ball from Willian, but then spared his quarry by shooting into the side netting from close range.
Generally, however, QPR were doing a fair job at keeping their hosts at bay and, in the 15th minute, they served warning of their own menace when Charlie Austin headed just over the bar following a cross from Junior Hoilett.
Eden Hazard was seeing plenty of the ball and producing some sumptuous touches but not penetrating. It took a mistake by Eduardo Vargas in the 25th minute to create another opening for the home team, with Cesc Fabregas pouncing on the Chilean’s loose pass before forcing a save from Rob Green from 25 yards.
Seven minutes later, the goalkeeper was left bewildered by Oscar, who ran in from the right-wing to receive a pass from Fabregas and flip the ball into the far corner of the net with the outside of his foot. It was an exquisite finish. As the crowd cooed over the Brazilian’s skill, Mourinho bore an expression that seemed to say “about time.”
QPR emerged from half-time with more attacking intent. They pressed Chelsea back in the early minutes of the second period, causing Mourinho to fume further. Surrendering the initiative at Manchester City and United was bad enough; the prospect of doing it at home to QPR seemed intolerable for the Portuguese.
Willian might have soothed his manager by setting up a killer second goal in the 54th minute but instead over-hit an intended pass to Hazard, who lunged but could not connect with the ball seven yards from goal.
Harry Redknapp introduced Bobby Zamora on the hour to give Charlie Austin company up-front. Two minutes later Austin equalised. It was a wonderful finish, too, as Leroy Fer fired a bouncing shot at goal from 20 yards and the striker, standing eight yards out, applied a back-flick that wrong-footed Thibaut Courtois.
In the end Chelsea needed help to secure the win, and, not for the first time this season, Redknapp’s men came to their opponents’ aid, Vargas giving away a penalty with a witless shunt on Hazard in the 75th minute. Redknapp complained that it was just a “shoulder charge”, but the challenge was reckless. And from the spot Hazard was ruthless. But Mourinho knows that stronger teams are unlikely to show such vulnerability.
Paul Doyle – The Observer