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QPR put up ferocious fight, but Hazard saves the day with late penalty

Clive Rose/Getty Images

When you think about today's 2-1 victory, consider one important factor: before today's match, Chelsea had faced Queens Park Rangers in four league matches since the turn of the millenium. And our record against them hasn't been good: one win (Fernando Torres scored a hattrick!), one draw and two losses, including a horrendous reverse at Stamford Bridge two seasons ago.

On paper, the Hoops are easy opponents, but in practice football's a little more complicated than that, and there was little sign of, say, the side that got roasted -- by inferior teams than Chelsea at that -- at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford. QPR were organised and very difficult to break down, and their muscularity ensured that even our ten thousand corners were to no avail.

In short, the confluence of the Curse of November and them being a bogey team in general turned QPR into a credible, dangerous side, and although the Blues would have won comfortably had they been playing well, the performance that we actually got meant that we were in serious threat of dropping points for the entire match.

The first half was good enough. Barely. QPR were kept at arm's length throughout, with Charlie Austin thoroughly isolated and looking mildly helpless against Gary Cahill and John Terry, and at the other end of the pitch the Chelsea press was keeping the visitors pinned in their own third.

We were also a goal to the good thanks to an extraordinary strike from Oscar, which masked our general lack of competence in their penalty box. The best chance we had apart from the goal itself came from Willian and Branislav Ivanovic, with the latter hitting the side of the net from close range when he looked certain to guide the Brazilian's cross past Rob Green.

But let's talk about the goal, because it was an absolute peach. Nemanja Matic won the ball just inside our half, and eventually possession was worked forward to Cesc Fabregas, who was much higher up the pitch than normal. The defence collapsed around the midfielder -- this is usually what Eden Hazard does to teams, but it's certainly welcome from other players -- and he waited patiently for the four players gunning for him to take themselves out of the game before presenting Oscar with a layoff.

The intent, probably, was for the ball to be pulled back for Diego Costa or Willian to attack. But Oscar decided that that was far too boring, and instead bent a shot around Richard Dunne with the outside of his right boot, putting enough swerve on the effort that it swung back inside and crashed in off the far post. That would have been an extraordinary shot in any circumstances, and that he did it without the benefit of a first touch was simply extraordinary.

Oscar's effort ensured that we were a goal to the good going into the interval, which might not have been entirely positive given how sloppy we were in the second half. As ever, the lack of a killer instinct proved the biggest obstacle Chelsea faced. They didn't push hard enough for 2-0, and they didn't defend well enough to prevent the visitors creating a chance, and it came as a surprise to absolutely nobody when QPR took advantage of the general mood to draw level.

Herry Redknapp had sensed the opportunity, throwing on Bobby Zamora in place of Junior Hoilett on the hour mark as the Hoops shifted into the attack. The move was rewarded -- Chelsea were hit on the counterattack, and although Thibaut Courtois did well to parry Eduardo Vargas' initial effort, the ball popped out into a suboptimal area and Leroy Fer's follow-up effort was redirected in front of Cahill by Austin, who had stopped looking quite so helpless. Courtois was wrong-footed, and the ball trickled over the line for 1-1.

Now it was Jose Mourinho's turn to react. The manager turned to Didier Drogba, throwing him on for Willian and shifting to a 4-4-2. For a while it all looked a little hopeless, but Chelsea slowly raised their game, and finally got the breakthrough they needed 15 minutes from time, when Hazard drove into the box only to be charged over by Vargas. Penalty given, the goal was a formality: the Belgian waited for Rob Green to commit before lashing into the opposite corner.

The job was done, although the final minutes might have been a little less nervy had Green not kept Terry's fine header out in the 83rd minute. What mattered is the points and the ability to relax ahead of the Manchester Derby tomorrow. The performance ... well, we want better, and we'll have to get better. But that's a worry for another day. In the meantime it's 12 wins from 15 matches in all competitions, and 26 from a possible 30 in the Premier League. Not bad going, really.

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