Chelsea 1 – 0 Queens Park Rangers

Match reports

The Observer, Duncan Castles: “QPR, taken over in September by two Formula One money men and refinanced last month by an Indian billionaire, are on their way back to the top tier of English football. Their half-rebuilt team may still be one of Championship stalwarts and Premier League fringe players, their football not yet astute enough to undo even a weakened Chelsea and the club’s uncertain manager, but they still managed to set a few home pulses racing.”

Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: “Queens Park Rangers, with their regiment of newly-signed players, gave Chelsea a thorough run for their money in this London derby, going down to a single, freakish goal which came after 28 minutes. Chelsea’s Claudio Pizarro drove in a right-footed shot, Lee Camp, the QPR goalkeeper, seemed to misjudge it as he dived and had the mortification of deflecting the ball into his own net off his arm as it came back off the left-hand post.”

Independent on Sunday, Glenn Moore: “With the spine of the team injured, and others rested, Avram Grant fielded a reserve-string central defence and occasional starters Steve Sidwell, Scott Sinclair and Claudio Pizarro. The latter was bizarrely withdrawn into midfield early on with the wingers pushed up to make4-3-3. More interesting than any name on the teamsheet was that of Didier Drogba among the substitutes. The Ivorian is just back from a knee operation and about to head for Ghana for the African Nations Cup.”

Sunday Telegraph, Clive White: “So in the end all that separated the haves and the have-soons was an own goal. Rangers’ new billionaire owners could be excused for thinking that success in this football business could come wonderfully cheaply, if the laboured efforts of their supposedly upper class West London neighbours was anything to go by here.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “The FA Cup holders have taken the first step on this season’s road to Wembley with an undramatic victory – courtesy of a first-half own goal.”

The goal

28′ Camp (og) 1-0

The good

  1. We’re in the hat on Monday. Ok so it was dull, dull, dull but at least we’re in round 4. Compare that to other clubs, such as Everton and Blackburn, both of whom have publicly acclaimed, talented, rising star managers and only have cups to play for, we got through despite still being involved in all competitions and managed by The Ordinary One. I don’t think the result was ever in doubt and even though we never really got going we weren’t under threat. There were no "heart in the mouth" moments, unlike Leicester in the Carling Cup.
  2. Full crowd. After the Rosenborg debacle it was great to see the stadium full. Watching Match of the Day it was clear that at some stadiums entire stands were empty, aside from the ball boys and stewards. Who says we haven’t got a fan base!
  3. Being good neighbours. QPR might have more financial clout than us, although it’s unclear how deep the investors want to dig into their pockets, but in all other respects they’re poorer than us. Lesser players, average ground and not much in the trophy cabinet aside from a League Cup win over the Arsenal, so we welcomed them to the Bridge, let them play a bit and allowed their fans to sing their silly songs without too much interruption. Provided they don’t build an extension that blocks the light from our back garden we’re happy to invite them round for tea and biscuits every now and again.
  4. Steve Sidwell’s shot. I can’t say I’m a big Sidwell fan but credit where it’s due, it was a good move and his shot was a cracker and a great pity for him that it struck the post. We’ll find out more about Steve over the next few weeks with the Africans away.
  5. Didier Drogba’s return. Great to see Didier back on the pitch. He didn’t do too much but at least he’s on his way back. Only a shame that we’re going to be used to get his fitness back so he can disappear to Africa for a few weeks.

The bad

  1. First half. Are we becoming a team that can only play in the second half? The first half was slow. The second half wasn’t great but had a better tempo and gave us a bit more to shout about. Maybe Avram gave another half time rallying call by proxy?
  2. Claudio Pizarro. Poor old Claudio, his name was up in lights on the big screens only to be taken away at half time once the real scorer had been discovered. I’ve seen queerer goals in my time but that was definitely the most Camp. If all football was played at Claudio pace then TV companies wouldn’t need to waste money on slow motion replays.
  3. Set pieces. How much does it cost to buy a toaster that makes toast, breakfast after breakfast? About £20 should do it. How much does it cost to buy a flat panel TV with HD that shows broadcast after broadcast? Amazingly only a few hundred quid. How much does it cost to buy a footballer that can take a corner just the once, let alone time after time? Well seemingly a £24,000,000 down payment followed by a 5 year commitment of £60,000 per week isn’t quite enough! It truly is pathetic. Most of our players are guilty but, maybe unfairly, I’m going to focus on Shaun Wright-Phillips because in addition his crossing was woeful, including one that drifted into the upper tier of the Shed. I’m a great admirer of SWP’s personal qualities. He gives 100%, chases lost causes, keeps balls in play that in normal circumstances would go out and, per inch, is probably the gutsiest and bravest player out there. However if a player can’t perform the most fundamental task, which is to accurately strike a ball, I can’t see how he can stay.

Man of the Match

Ashley Cole. Tricky choice since everyone was ordinary but I thought Ashley competed well and tried to get forward.

Final thoughts

We got through Christmas with a depleted squad and picked up a high number of points. With the African Nations Cup throwing another spanner in the works there’s still every reason to be optimistic. Players will be returning from injury, although Malouda seems to be dragging his heals, and we might sign one or two new faces, so if we can keep the momentum going until our African boys return this season may still be surprisingly productive.

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