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Ian Macintosh
Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014

Sports

Football: No stopping blues machine

The New Paper on Sunday | Ian Macintosh | Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014

The wins keep coming for Chelsea, but the title favourites were made to work for this one.

Oscar's world-class opening goal appeared to signal an onslaught, but the Blues required a late Eden Hazard penalty to make sure of the points after Charlie Austin's second-half equaliser.

Jose Mourinho will not have been impressed with the performance, but he will at least be consoled by the recovery.

Chelsea have dropped only four points this season, but both were in games that they had dominated and then let slip. This was, if nothing else, a demonstration of resolve.

Chelsea were almost at full strength, with Filipe Luis the only inclusion who might be rather harshly considered a fringe player.

Diego Costa returned to the side to lead the line, an ominous sight for any team let alone one in a relegation battle and, though he didn't score, he did work hard in the final third.

Harry Redknapp obviously felt that playing two strikers at Stamford Bridge would leave his side too weak in the midfield and so Bobby Zamora, so impressive in his team's last two games, was left on the bench.

It meant that QPR could fill the midfield and avoid humiliation, but it left Austin without a partner and the big forward was forced to toil manfully on his own.

For all the stodge, Chelsea's supremacy gradually began to tell. The QPR defenders were pulled this way and that; dragged out by Costa's tireless hold-up play, stretched by Willian, Oscar and the excellent Hazard.

NO ANSWER

When Cesc Fabregas joined the attack, the visitors had no answer. Three defenders were lured in by his surge up the pitch, Oscar strode into the space they left.

His finish was utterly uncompromising, a thunderbolt struck with the outside of his boot that left Robert Green grasping at thin air.

Midway through the second half, Redknapp was forced to take action. Off came Junior Hoilett and Zamora made his way into the arena.

QPR equalised within a minute. Eduardo Vargas' shot was parried by Thibaut Courtois, Leroy Fer made a mess off the rebound, but Austin was on hand to backheel the scuffed shot into the net.

Redknapp's side were energised. Sandro could have made it two in the 68th minute, his low shot whizzing just wide of the post.

Chelsea responded, an Oscar free-kick was only just tipped around the post by Green.

But, with 15 minutes left, Vargas felled Hazard on the edge of the box and the Belgian star calmly converted the penalty.

A flat performance and a game that will be forgotten by all but the most retentive of fans, but it matters not a jot.

Win by win, Chelsea are striding to the title.

 


This article was first published on November 2, 2014.
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