Team: Green, Isla (Dunne), Onuoha, Caulker, Hill, Phillips, Barton, Sandro (Kranjcar), Henry, Austin, Zamora (Hoilett)
Subs Not Used: McCarthy, Comley, Mitchell, Grego-Cox
This is the kind of result on which fates can seem settled. Chelsea’s victorious players had gathered in front of the away support in the upper tier of the School End at the final whistle, punching the air in triumph as they celebrated the retention of a seven-point lead which had edged the Premier League title ever closer.
Whilst they rejoiced, their opponents dragged themselves from the turf in utter disbelief, the West London divide gaping wider than ever.
QPR will have been numbed by this loss, all the optimism generated by an upturn in away form and 88 minutes of industry and aggression having been undone at the last. Rob Green’s sliced clearance from hand barely stretched 20 yards outside his penalty area for Eden Hazard, of all people, to collect and dart forward.
The Belgian was permitted to exchange passes with Oscar, the home defence suddenly ramshackle, before pulling back for Cesc Fabregas to place the game’s only goal inside the post. Chris Ramsey sank to his haunches, head in hands and agony etched across his face.
The implications for his team, still two points beneath the cut-off and facing a fortnight’s hiatus in their campaign, are grim. Chelsea’s pursuit of their own more glittering prize simply seems more relentless in the aftermath of a victory chiselled from an awkward and fractious occasion.
Jose Mourinho admitted his team had been blessed with good fortune, prising the game’s decisive goal with their only shot on target. “I feel sorry for QPR because they worked so hard,” he said.
“They didn’t let us play better and did their job very well. But every time I was a champion, I remember a couple of matches my team won in the last minute. A little light shines for the team that are going to be champions.”
Roman Abramovich, up in the stand, was peering out through designer sunglasses with the implications of the result rather than the performance enough to have dazzled.
They may actually have gained more psychologically from a narrow late success in a derby than if they had stamped some authority on the contest early on and won comfortably.
Fabregas’ reward had actually been secured two minutes from time, the Spaniard removing the protective face mask – worn after a clash with Stoke’s Charlie Adam which had left him with a broken nose – as he raced to the corner, pursued by joyous team-mates.
Those celebrations were interrupted as objects rained down upon them, Branislav Ivanovic struck on the neck by a cigarette lighter, with plastic bottles and coins among the other debris flung at them.
“If somebody threw a pound, put the pound in your pocket and go,” Mourinho said. “If it’s a chocolate, eat it. No problem.”
This was not a day to stoke further controversy; Chelsea had secured the reward that counted most of all. They achieved their win despite being blunted, both by QPR’s eager energy and their own injury problems. Diego Costa remains hamstrung, while Loic Remy – formerly of these parts and a scorer of winning goals in his current team’s previous two matches – had succumbed to a “small injury” to his calf.
The hope is he will have returned to contention in time for the visit of Manchester United on Saturday, with another derby at second-placed Arsenal to follow.
In that pair’s absence, Didier Drogba led the line at 37, his goal threat minimal even if the effort and commitment could never be questioned. Willian hit a post with a cross that caught in the wind, but the visitors carried little punch until Green’s slice offered relief.
QPR were not afforded the same generosity by Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian had been beaten from 65 yards against Stoke but was back to his best here, his form confirmed by an instinctive save to deny Matt Phillips as the winger shot goalwards on the turn.
‘I’d told Thibaut that after Hull and Charlie Adam we needed him to give us a couple of points,” said Mourinho, “and he did that.” The home side must have feared the worst when that effort was saved, Courtois having already saved twice, from Charlie Austin and Clint Hill.
The home side had offered the more coherent threat, their menace built on the tigerish industry of Sandro and Joey Barton in central midfield, but the derby had been horribly scrappy on a scarred surface which suggested stalemate.
“We’ve ended up devastated,” Barton said. “We still have a number of games and feel our destiny is in our hands, and if we play like that we will be fine. But you could see what it meant to Chelsea to win that game.”
The post-match celebrations were those of champions elect. The title creeps ever closer to a return to Stamford Bridge.
Man of the Match: Joey Barton (QPR)
Dominic Fifield – The Guardian
Still absolutely gutted like everyone else. Chris Ramsey had got his strategy absolutely right as his players fought for every ball and battled the opposition all the way.
I looked across to the big screen at the School End on 86 minutes and thought that a well-deserved point was almost within our grasp. But two minutes later the visitors scored with what was their only shot on target!!!
Choked as I was I clapped the players as they acknowledged the fans at the final whistle and my passing thought was that if only Harry Redknapp, with his excuses and negative tactics, had left our club much sooner!
Chris Ramsey said after the match: “I am very, very disappointed to lose. Detail kills you and when you have top players like they do, you get done. One shot or two shots and the top players score.”
“We have let two or three goals in from the same position in the last few weeks and players haven’t been able to concentrate enough. We are still in with a fight, everyone is disappointed and I just feel sorry for the crowd.”
“Our concentration has been appalling. We have let late goals in, in most games. The players don’t need lifting, they will lift themselves,”