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QPR 0-1 Chelsea: Mata spot-on to take Blues through

A controversial penalty was the difference at Loftus Road as Chelsea overcame Queens Park Ranger’s in a close FA Cup 4th round encounter in West London.

A controversial penalty was the difference at Loftus Road as Chelsea overcame Queens Park Ranger’s in a close FA Cup 4th round encounter in West London. Chances were scarce in this cagey cup-tie and it took a second half penalty to separate the sides, Juan Mata proving clinical from 12-yards. But Mark Hughes’ side were visibly bewildered by the decision to award the spot-kick as Daniel Sturridge fell all too easily under the attentions of defender Clint Hill. QPR struggled to fashion anything clear cut yet Luke Young went close in stoppage time from the edge of the area.

The build up to this game was shrouded in shame as the major talking point focussed on whether Anton Ferdinand would shake the hand of John Terry following a protracted claim that the latter racially abused the QPR defender earlier in the season. Rather than risk a similar incident to that of three years ago when Wayne Bridge refused to shake Terry’s hand in a clash between Chelsea and Manchester City, the teams decided to do away with the usual formalities, boycotting the handshakes altogether.

As expected both sets of fans were in vociferous mood but the excitement in the stands failed to transpire to the pitch where the games opening exchanges lacked any clear-cut chances. In fact the entire first half struggled to resemble anything like the cup-tie the Sky cameras were clearly expecting. Chelsea’s Mata who has inspired his side to many a victory this season, was again pulling the midfield strings: keeping the ball moving when others looked to slow possession; offering himself to the man with ball when no one else looked eager enough to want it; and taking the game to QPR when it looked as though no one else was really bothered. If any one was going to make something happen in this so far insipid game, it was the tiny Spanish play-maker.

It was no surprise then when Mata had Chelsea’s first real shot on goal. QPR’s Young slipped in possession giving the ball to the Chelsea man who took aim from long-range. Paddy Kenny’s save was comfortable enough in the end but it forced the QPR man to reach low and parry. Mata then turned orchestrator in this soulless concert as his cute back-heel put Ramires. Unfortunately, it seemed his team-mates were singing from a different hymn sheet as there was no one near enough to turn the Brazilians teasing cross home.

If Chelsea’s attempts to find the net were poor, then QPR’s were almost non-existent, although Joey Barton’s long range effort from 20-yards did have keeper Petr Cech on alert. However an ironic cheer from the away support befell the QPR captain as his effort went wide of the post. Both sets of players appeared relieved to hear the half-time whistle after a half that can only be remembered fondly for the fact that the ugliness that was predicted pre-match did not come to fruition. Only the most optimistic of optimists will recall any moments of footballing quality.

Chelsea were at least more positive in the second half with Daniel Sturridge causing problems for the home defence. The young striker was played in by Fernando Torres but his effort went narrowly wide as he speedily got his shot away. Sturridge was then at the centre of a penalty claim as he appeared to be tripped by Hill but referee Mike Dean waved away the appeals.

Then in a similar incident in the QPR area Sturridge again fell under the challenge of the earlier accused Hill but this time Dean pointed to the spot. Hill instantly showed his displeasure at Sturridge’s tumble, even before the penalty was awarded, and upon reflection the QPR man had more than a right to feel aggrieved after replay’s showed minimal contact. When the protests were eventually waved away, Mata placed the ball on the spot and struck low in the bottom corner, sending keeper Kenny the wrong way.

It gave Chelsea a somewhat fortunate lead but it looked as though QPR’s sense of injustice might have sparked the home side into a courageous fight back. Federico Macheda, on loan from Manchester United was introduced along with Rob Hulse but both struggled to make the desired impact. With 15 minutes to go Chelsea then suffered a blow as Ramires was stretchered off with what was later confirmed as medial knee ligament damage. The Brazilian is expected to be out for at least four weeks and the time it took to treat the midfielder was added on after normal time: 7 minutes to find an equaliser.

The home fans found their voice and hoped to spur their side into a replay. After a succession of corners, Young picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired a shot that Cech did well to save before ex-Blue Shaun Wright-Phillips’ disappointing volley dashed wide along with QPR’s hopes of making the next round. Far from a classic encounter, and not a West London derby that will be remembered for footballing reasons, both sides can at least be thankful that there were no repeat headlines of the last encounter. Chelsea can at least take the positive of still being in the cup but if they are to progress even further in this competition they must learn not leave their fate to the man in the middle.

Watch highlights from QPR 0-1 Chelsea

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