QPR 0 – 1 Chelsea: Much of the pre-match attention was focussed on Anton Ferdinand and John Terry – the latter alleged to have directed racist language towards QPR defender, Ferdinand, during their League meeting at Loftus Road in October 2011. This weekend, ahead of Terry’s court appearance on February 1st, the buzz surrounded a different kind of gesture: the pre-match handshake.
Wayne Bridge infamously refused to shake his former friend and team-mate’s hand in a game on February 27th 2010, after a domestic point of difference – that being Terry’s infidelity with Bridge‘s then-girlfriend. This snub humiliated Terry and sent a message across football about the importance of kinship in a team, and raised questions about the most important qualities of a captain.
This, presumably, is why both QPR and Chelsea elected to do-away with the customary handshake altogether for this FA Cup fourth round tie at Loftus Road. It was a wise move to make it just about the football. Unfortunately, the action on the pitch did not equate to the drama of the build-up – unless you count the legitimacy of the Chelsea penalty award, and indeed, the subsequent only goal of the game.
While camera replays may find Terry guilty in court, they are no use to QPR in their appeal for a weakly awarded foul. The slowed-down re-runs make Daniel Sturridge’s descent appear to be somewhat misleading.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot for Clint Hill’s deemed barge on Sturridge, and Juan Mata converted neatly from 12 yards. However, Hill’s inflamed verbal reaction, in addition to the video replays, suggest that the penalty was a somewhat lucky one. Cries of “cheat” from the home crowd supported this – but then, they would.
Both sides had a mediocre first half, lacking any cup-tie excitement; Mata made the only clear chance, snatching at a Luke Young error to force a low save from ‘keeper, Paddy Kenny. QPR had little to speak of in terms of first-half chances, only noting Joey Barton’s half-volley lashed harmlessly wide of Petr Cech’s post.
The visitors came out with more spark for the second half, with Sturridge only narrowly missing with a drive after being played in by goal-barren Fernando Torres.
Hughes’ tactics seemed all too industrial, lacking much flourish or penetration in attack. Indeed, the long-ball tactics weren’t met well by the disgruntled Hoops crowd, and made their loss little surprise – even with Federico Macheda coming on at half-time. What do QPR fans make of Hughes’ tactics so far?
The winning penalty came an hour into the game, awarded moments after a more obvious penalty claim, again on Sturridge, was waved away by Mike Dean.
As time ticked down, QPR fought for an equaliser; Hill’s shot blocked by Ramires, resulting in the Chelsea midfielder being carried off on a stretcher with suspected knee ligament damage. The home side struggled, as throughout the game, to penetrate the Chelsea defence with any real meaning – they were only buoyed by the announcement of seven minutes injury time and made a last-gasp attempt to equalise in the final seconds with chances from Young and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Unfortunately for the home side, it was not enough. While the penalty claim may be weak – its strength was on a par with QPR’s potency in attack.
What would QPR fans like to see in their team tactics for the rest of the season – how can they improve their attacking play without compromising their defence? And as for Chelsea, when will Torres score? Do Blues fans want to usurp him with Didier Drogba as soon as the Ivorian front-man is back from the African Cup of Nations?
WinkBall spoke to fans before and after this fourth round FA Cup tie at Loftus Road on Saturday 28th January 2011 – hear their excitement for the FA Cup before the match, and their reactions to their respective teams after the final whistle.