Football: So much for Chelsea's resurgence under Rafael Benitez. The Blues' championship aspirations were dealt a blow after they suffered a shock home defeat to the league’s bottom club, west London rivals Queens Park Rangers. In victory, Harry Redknapp’s men offer their supporters renewed hope that they can survive relegation.
This win, only QPR's second of the season, was what they needed after a disastrous set of results. Rangers still remain five points from safety, however.
Shaun Wright-Phillips, who played for Chelsea between 2005 and 2008, scored the decisive goal as QPR recorded one of the results of the season so far.
Asked if this could be the club’s turning point in their campaign, Redknapp said: “I hope so. Let’s hope we can build on it. That win was encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.”
Against a side they were expected to beat convincingly, and by the high standards that had been set by their recent performances, Chelsea’s first-half efforts were disappointing. They lose ground on league leaders Manchester United.
Interim manager Benitez, who refused to comment on Newcastle United striker’s Demba Ba’s expected move to Stamford Bridge, said his players were suffering from fatigue after an intense period of matches.
“You could see that the players were a little tired,” said Benitez. “There were too many things that were not working for us. We were not passing with accuracy or a high tempo. It was the difference for us.”
Chelsea came into this match on the back of four consecutive league wins. They had scored 14 goals in the process and conceded just two. One would have predicted an easy win for Chelsea. However, they looked off colour all match, and despite looking better in the second half, they could not find their way past QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Benitez opted to rest both Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. However, with Chelsea struggling to break down their opponents in the second half, Benitez had brought both of them on in a bid to add some much-needed inspiration and creativity.
Marko Marin, who was lucky to be on the pitch after a dangerous lunge on Stephane Mbia three minutes into the match, and Victor Moses were the players to make way.
The goal came on 78 minutes after Chelsea’s David Luiz failed to adequately clear a corner kick. The loose ball fell to QPR’s Adel Taarabt, who was impressive all match, and he laid the ball up for Wright-Phillips. His low shot from 20 yards flew past the diving Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.
Redknapp now needs his players to produce more of the same if they are to avoid relegation and a return to the second tier of English football.
The QPR boss doesn’t need reminding of the fate that befalls those clubs at the bottom of the league come the turn of the year. Only West Bromwich Albion have been in that position in recent years and lived to tell the tale.
Chelsea have an important week ahead. They travel to Southampton on the weekend to begin their defence of the FA Cup before the visit of Swansea City in the League Cup semi-final next week.
QPR, meanwhile, welcome West Bromwich Albion on Saturday as they too turn their attentions away from the league.
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