I don't really know what I was expecting from Chelsea vs. Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, but I certainly wasn't anticipating QPR not bothering to turn up. A poor Chelsea display was counterbalanced by the hosts essentially playing a 98 minute defensive drill, and a soft penalty was all the Blues would need to come out 1-0 winners and advance to the fifth round. Victory, easy as it was, came at a steep cost, however - the impressive Ramires picked up an injury in the second half that looks like it could keep the Brazilian out for some time.
Despite the opportunity to field the kids against a weak QPR side, Andre Villas-Boas opted to play a lineup that was fairly close to full strength. John Terry started despite the racist abuse allegations that put a darker than usual cloud over this fixture, and despite the fact that Villas-Boas promised Gary Cahill some part in the match, it was David Luiz who partnered the captain in the centre of defence.
The Florent Malouda as a central midfielder experiment continued with Raul Meireles preferred at holder over Oriol Romeu, while Fernando Torres started up top in Chelsea's standard 4-3-3. QPR lined up in two banks of four and they apparently had some strikers somewhere too. I didn't see them.
Here is a comprehensive list of things that happened in the first half:
- Juan Mata shot on the break, but it was saved by Paddy Kenny.
The second half was a bit better, with Chelsea coming out on the attack. Mata should have scored when he was accidentally played in behind the defence by a QPR tackle, but the Spaniard thought he was offside and ended up hitting the ball right at Kenny's midriff. He'd get a much better chance to score when Daniel Sturridge, who had done nothing useful whatsoever up to that point, made an amazing dive in the box when Clint Hall brushed up against him.
With Frank Lampard injured and Didier Drogba off at the Africa Cup of Nations, Mata is the penalty take (sorry Torres!), and he send Kenny the wrong way with a neat little finish into the bottom corner. Was the spot kick deserved? No. Was the lead deserved? Probably not. Will we take it? Yep.
QPR never really threatened, but during one of their stronger periods of play they did manage to injure Ramires, who was one of a handful of players who looked as though he was interested in the match. Petr Cech failed to punch a cross away cleanly and went to ground in the process, and with the ball falling to Hill on the edge of the box Ramires did superbly in charging down and blocking his shot, only to fall awkwardly and hurt himself in the process. He was down for treatment for several minutes, and it doesn't look particularly good - initial reports have it as a medial knee ligament problem.
Chelsea were shaken up a little by the injury and they started to let QPR have the ball once every five minutes rather than once every ten, with the defenders making a couple of mistakes. However, the Hoops were nowhere near good enough to take advantage of some lax play, and it wasn't until the 98th minute, when Luke Young came storming up the right into space and let rip with a blistering shot from the edge of the box, that Cech was required to make a save.
A forgettable win, then, but a win nonetheless, and Chelsea advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup, exacting some measure of revenge for the 1-0 league loss suffered at Loftus Road.