There was no conceivable way this match, or for than matter many of its type, could possibly satisfy the hype. Amidst a backdrop of racial allegations, an exonerated John Terry, the prospect of handshake snubs, Mark Hughes and Roberto Di Matteo advocating stances, and Rio Ferdinand's Twitter account, the match went forward. No, the world didn't explode in a cataclysmic uproar of flame and ash. Rather, the teams took the field and dulled us into a bore draw. Forgive me, but I expected nothing less. More, after the jump:
Sometimes, you get less than you bargained for. Occasionally, you get more. In this case, Chelsea got precisely what they deserved. An unusually defensive lineup, coupled with what appeared to be a general lack of sharpness produced a tepid draw that while rife with opportunity, failed to deliver. Stephen has already done a brilliant job covering the handshake's that were/weren't, so I'll leave that realm to his expertise. Suffice it to say, Park Ji-Sung and Anton Ferdinand had their respective motivations for leaving John and Ashley hanging. Di Matteo elected to field a relatively defensive side for this encounter, selecting Ryan Bertrand for an advanced role on the left in favor of allowing Juan Mata an extended break (so necessary). Elsewhere, the side was what many would consider our strongest eleven, with no room for new boys Oscar, Moses, and Azpilicueta but on the bench. Eden Hazard resumed his role behind Fernando Torres, Ramires was deployed once more on the right, Frank and Obi handed the middle, while the defense was predictably filled with the usual faces.
You would expect, with the gulf in class, quality, and names on our roster, handing QPR a loss would be an easy ask. Regrettably, this would not come to fruition. Chelsea entered the match on an unbeaten streak, and would toil under the combined expectation of dominance and scrutiny to what many should be grateful for; a solitary point. Indeed, it was not vintage Chelsea from prior matches- a lack of cutting edge and an inability to retain possession in the middle of the park dictated terms for the afternoon. But where Chelsea might have looked off the boil, QPR reciprocated in kind with some poor finishing. There appears to be no end to the hostility held against each side- and for all intents and purposes I'm a fan of the seething anger within. I enjoy the fact that players generally dislike one another; it makes for more entertaining theater and provides an added edge to the spectacle. Though I'd prefer that such animosity didn't fall under the guise of racism, I'll take what I can get in this case.
Alright, back to the match (which I've done an excellent job of avoiding at this point). Here's what you need to know, in bullets, for simplicity and efficiency purposes:
- Andre Marriner had himself a poor afternoon as lead official. At least two clear and valid penalties in favor of the Chels were neglected. Elsewhere, he let players get physical in spots, and at other times flashed his cards. Not a consistent display, and I felt he let the chippy nature of the affair spiral out of control at times. A match of this variety requires a composed official that can command the action with his whistle. Here, Marriner was not the right choice.
- Two of the games best chances fell to Chelsea in the opening 45, with Ramires finding a flashing Eden Hazard who could only shoot in the direction of Julio Cesar, and Fernando Torres, who had the opportunity to uncork a shot with his right, but instead cut-back on his weaker left and attempted to curl one past the aforementioned keeper. Not exactly the best of stuff from Nando on this day, but you could forgive him considering the long-ball approach we're employed does little to benefit his game.
- Eden Hazard continues to give me warm fuzzies. Also, a match like this underscores the value of Juan Mata. So many are caught up in the Hazard-hangover, few are crediting the impact Mata has on the development of our attacks. His vision and passing were certainly missed and on this evidence, he'll be recalled for the Juventus fixture.
- Signs suggested QPR were in the game, with Andy Johnson demonstrating showcasing some excellent moments. Early injuries to Fabio and Johnson would limit QPR in their approach over the opening frame, but would not prevent their fans from remaining loud. Credit to that lot, they showed up and mouthed off. Can't hate that.
- Lets all take a moment and acknowledge Jose Bosingwa. At times, he seemed to be having a laugh with anyone he was marking, or marked by. On several instances, the cameras caught him in mid-dialouge with players from our camp. Clearly, there's a lot of love to go around in this equation. Never forget, he's still a European Champion.
- Ramires masquerading at a right-winger. No more needs to be said on this subject.
- Victor Moses? I wholeheartedly approve. His introduction brought a much-needed change of pace and aggression. Imagine, a player who naturally prefers running the channels and creating opportunities. His performance was encouraging enough to suggest he may well have a place in Wednesday's Juventus matchup. On that note, ...
- Oscar. We need to see more of him. This was a fixture that could have benefitted from his pace, ability to hold the ball, and pick out a pass. I would have preferred to see him on one side of Eden, with Moses on the other. After all, he had a hand in all of Brazil's goals against China. Why not let the kid show the denizens of Loftus Road a thing or two? Roberto, sort it out.
- You think Esteban Granero is delighted to be in this position? I don't.
- A moment of praise for John, who despite the incessant nagging, harassment, and ridicule, put in a very strong shift at the back next to David Luiz (who was not in cavalier-mode and instead opted to clear his lines in conventional fashion). Still would like to see Gary and John take the stage together. Harsh for Cahill not to be included at this stage.
- Re: Fernando walking off- don't sweat it. He probably had to go number one. Or something like that. Yeah.
- Daniel had a chance to showcase his worth through the middle and actually, did a bit to suggest he deserves for minutes than he's currently getting. With Marin on the mend, Malouda in the shed, Mata working back to full strength, why not deploy Danny on the left instead of Ryan? Would certainly offer a more potent goal threat. Just sayin'.