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QP-Karma - dodgy decision decides Cup clash


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Juan Mata's second-half penalty was enough for Chelsea to see off a stubborn Queen's Park Rangers side at Loftus Road and progress through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup.

The diminutive Spaniard clinically swept home the decisive spot-kick after Clint Hill was judged to have pushed Daniel Sturridge inside the penalty area, sending goalkeeper Paddy Kenny the wrong way and the vociferous away support from SW6 into ecstasy. Replays suggested the decision was a harsh one from Mike Dean, with Sturridge seemingly going down quite easily - but that only adds to the sweetness of the victory. Karma is a bitch, and a Chelsea side led by the imperious John Terry delivered it in the most fitting of ways.

Though overshadowed by Terry's alleged racist abuse aimed at Anton Ferdinand, October's league match at Loftus Road was also settled from the penalty spot as David Luiz 'fouled' Heidar Helguson inside the box. Despite two challenges on the Brazilian at the other end that made for excellent impressions of England prop Dan Cole, the nine men of Chelsea were defeated despite totally dominating Rangers in front of their own crowd, and would surely have equalised but for a horror-miss from the now-departed Nicolas Anelka.

Quite surprisingly, with all the media furore surrounding Terry ahead of his court case next week, the FA - for once - made a sensible decision to discard the usual pre-match pleasantries, ensuring there would be no repeat of the Wayne-Bridge-handshake-snub of February 2010, when the England captain was again spread across the tabloid headlines. But, as he has done so many times in the past, the under-fire Chelsea skipper was simply outstanding. If adversity produces best out of him - which, on evidence of this, it does - then it would perhaps be a good ploy for Andre Villas-Boas to instruct his captain to employ a more consistently-antagonistic attitude towards the opposition.

Terry didn't miss a tackle; in short, he was exceptional. For a man that has come under criticism not only for the incident with Ferdinand but also for an error-prone start to the campaign, Chelsea's captain, leader and legend was at the top of his game - as he has been for the last month or so - and he certainly proved to be the bedrock of a victory down to collective professionalism from Villas-Boas' side.

This was a game Chelsea could ill-afford to lose. Dropped points last weekend away at Norwich came as a disappointment despite Arsenal, Newcastle, Liverpool and Tottenham all succumbing to defeat, and with the club's Champions League hopes nominal even prior to the tough assignment of SSC Napoli in the first knock-out round, the FA Cup seems the most (and perhaps only) probability for silverware in what has been an underwhelming and uninspiring season for the boys from the Fulham Road.

A period of transition was predicted by a handful of realists, but even the most level-headed of Blues supporters would never have expected so many dire performances and barely-deserved results that have hinged upon the brilliance of the likes of Mata and Ramires, who were again outstanding in this crunch clash. Nevermind the local bragging rights, for the sake of progress a victory was desperately needed, and that was supplied by the left boot of the club's talismanic playmaker - again the shining star in an attacking sense for the Blues.

It will have come as a great relief to Villas-Boas and the club's supporters alike that the football did the talking. What might have come as a bit of a shock was the lack of hostility from a QPR crowd boasting a surprising number of empty seats. Whilst Chelsea were able to take a noisy following of more than 3,100 followers to the short trip across West London, the Rangers fans seemed to be at their noisiest when the Blues were in possession, with the predictable boos and jeers aimed at Terry met with a rallying cheer from the Blues fans every time he touched the ball.

QPR looked short on ideas and with the obvious lack of vocal encouragement from their home supporters, it was no surprise to see this game totally bossed by the Blues, with a degree of relative comfort, it must be noted. Rangers had their chances, but they were few and far-between thanks to the disciplined defending of Terry, Luiz and company. The returning Branislav Ivanovic added balance to the right flank with his trademark combination of defensive awareness and attacking positivity, whilst the much-maligned Ashley Cole was equally as resolute on the opposite side of the pitch.

Limited to what can only be described as half-chances (yet even that might be a touch complimentary to the quality of deliveries from the likes of ex-Chelsea wide man Shaun Wright-Phillips and the Tweeting Twat himself, Joey Barton), the home side's only real effort of note came in the eighth of seven added minutes at the end of the second half, as a low Luke Young drive produced a fine save from Petr Cech in what proved to be a match-winning moment from the Czech custodian. It was the type of late, sprawling reaction save that the Blues number 1 has made so many times in his Chelsea career. Divine intervention at its finest.

The extent of time added on was due to an injury picked up by Ramires; one described as being medial ligament damage by Villas-Boas in a post-match interview. If confirmed after scans scheduled for Monday, that will highlight a high price for this victory, and the Blues may well be without their inspirational midfield enforcer for weeks, if not months. Thankfully, Villas-Boas commented it was only a "tweak" in comparison to the rupture that saw Michael Essien miss the last sixth months. It should be taken as a great positive then, that the Ghanaian again eased himself through the final moments after a late introduction, as he may well play a key part for this side in the next few weeks.

This match was one low on drama and excitement. It was not the blood-and-thunder explosion of fierce tackles and fiery confrontations the media had played it up as. In fact, both teams seemed to show considerable respect to one-another. The quality was also a notable absentee, but that was to be largely expected for a sub-par Chelsea side boasting the rather unspectacular 'talents' of Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres in the starting line-up, playing against a Championship side that may well be returning to where they belong come May.

Besides Mata's penalty, the only real opportunity Chelsea can boast was one woefully wasted by Florent Malouda - though that is par-for-the-course nowadays. It was a disappointing end to a move soaked in quality; Mata and the brilliant David Luiz combined to allow Ramires to surge into the danger zone, only for Malouda to skew his effort. 12 months ago, the Frenchman would have handed Chelsea the lead, but his trademark uselessness seems to have extended to new heights in recent weeks. A much better effort is needed from him if he is to warrant inclusion in the side ahead of the likes of the exceptional young talents of Oriol Romeu and Romelu Lukaku, the latter again not featuring in a match where he'd have surely excelled with his physicality.

Instead, the onus was on Torres to again toil for 90 minutes as he moved on to 17 games for club and country without finding the net. Such a run looked unlikely to end today with him barely having a sniff, though, to his credit, the Spaniard did rather well on a number of occasions to hold the ball up and link the play. Without support once more he was left an isolated figure up front, but that is the difference between Torres and the absent Didier Drogba; the veteran Ivorian forward still possesses that game-changing spark he has shown at times this year. The startling reality, however, is that besides when Drogba wants to play, the Blues have very limited attacking options, and that was again shown by another largely anonymous performance from el Nino. His supporters will cite the lack of support he receives, but misses such as last week's sitter against Norwich is enough to demonstrate he barely deserves any intelligent support play.

The media lens was focussed on Terry today and it will remain so as he faces a court case over his alleged racist remarks, but the Chelsea captain will enter that court case having recorded a small moral victory over Ferdinand on a personal level, but more importantly, a massive win in this Chelsea team's season. Lacklustre at times and brilliant on occasions - it doesn't matter in a game where results, not performances, win you trophies. Season-defining moments come in all shapes and sizes, and today it came thanks to a fully-committed and professional display, led by the faultless defensive duo of Terry and his centre-back partner David Luiz.

A realistic ambition for the rest of this season would be another FA Cup title to add to the club's growing list of successes in this competition, and with the two Manchester clubs now out thanks to Liverpool's win over United at Anfield, one can now argue that Tottenham, Arsenal and the Merseysiders aside, this competition is now Chelsea's to lose. Maybe that thought will provide some solace as the Blues face up to the indefinite loss of Ramires. The Brazilian will be a big miss for Villas-Boas - the Chelsea number 7 is the team's dynamic engine room, its source of energy and enthusiasm. Though the returning Michael Essien may plug the hole left by Ramires' absence, his physical condition is still very much up for debate considering his lengthy rehabilitation, and even in his prime, Essien was never able to replicate the burst of speed and athleticism that his team-mate is able to call upon.

Villas-Boas will now hopefully be encouraged to dip into the transfer market and sign some emergency cover - especially with Frank Lampard a doubt for the next few games due to a minor calf tear - but he will equally be pleased by a fourth consecutive clean sheet and a fourth win in five matches in 2012. A win over Swansea on Tuesday would do well to improve the mood at Stamford Bridge and would make for an impressive January after a desperately disappointing December, but for now, Chelsea fans can afford themselves a half-smile as the satisfaction of this result begins to sink in.

Karma is so often the currency of football, and the sweetness of this victory is one to savour in a season of ups and downs. Lets hope that from hereon-in, that the Blues continued to add to that catalogue of positive results rather than the list of disappointments...

QPR (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Hall, Ferdinand, Hill; Mackie, Barton ©, Buzsaky (Hulse 78), Wright-Phillips; Smith, Helguson (Macheda 46).

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic; D Luiz, Terry ©, Cole; Ramires (Romeu 78), Meireles, Malouda; Sturridge, Torres, Mata (Essien 90).

The TalkChelsea.net STAR MAN is award to 26. JOHN TERRY of Chelsea.

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For Chelsea it's just not good enough. I'm not trying to be cynical, but really. I've been waiting for games where Chelsea is 2-0 up after an hour. Can you count one, just one, since AVB is manager?

I'm not suggesting AVB should go, I'm suggesting he needs to get some balls and use them to make some (drastic) changes. It's time.

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For Chelsea it's just not good enough. I'm not trying to be cynical, but really. I've been waiting for games where Chelsea is 2-0 up after an hour. Can you count one, just one, since AVB is manager?

I'm not suggesting AVB should go, I'm suggesting he needs to get some balls and use them to make some (drastic) changes. It's time.

Not recently, but we have had early leads such a 4-0 HT lead against Bolton, for instance.

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For Chelsea it's just not good enough. I'm not trying to be cynical, but really. I've been waiting for games where Chelsea is 2-0 up after an hour. Can you count one, just one, since AVB is manager?

I'm not suggesting AVB should go, I'm suggesting he needs to get some balls and use them to make some (drastic) changes. It's time.

Sunderland 1 - 2 Chelsea

Chelsea 4 - 1 Swansea

Bolton 1 - 5 Chelsea (well, actually it was 5-1 after an hour)

Chelsea 3 - 1 Everton

Chelsea 3 - 0 Wolves

Chelsea 5 - 0 Racing Genk

Chelsea 3 - 0 Valencia

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Great article and tehehehe...fact it was conversaial made it way better in a way!

Yeah definate changes need to be made but Man U went on a run of 1-0 wins at one stage didnt do them to much harm...just not good for nerves!!!! But we need to start stepping up and putting chances away because there have been times when a 1-0 lead hasnt been enough and we've blown it so many times..and goal diff if it comes down to it for 3rd/4th spot and all...

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I know we haven't been scoring many goals recently, but I don't think we could have won that match better than we did today with that "soft" penalty (deja vu much?) and 20 minutes of frustrating (from QPR's perspective) time wasting and all that.

But if we're going to do that, we should still make sure we're fully concentrated and disciplined. Luiz had a good game in general, but his discipline was shocking as usual, and I'd like to see better use of the ball from Torres as well. There's no need for him to try beat three QPR players from halfway line when the whole team is trying to sit back and comfortably see the game out.

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I was pleased with the result but I am starting to worry about AVB's team selections recently. Ok, so he knows enough to sideline Bos as soon as Bran is match fit but selecting Malouda in midfield is only going to cause the team a load more problems. There were some criminally lazy passes that barely crawled towards Terry before being cut out easily and that "effort" from a first half corner, he needs to regain his touch and show that he can still be a threat.

I was pleased with Torres' performance again but the team needs to work on making space for him instead of every move ending with Torres receiving the ball on the wing with Sturridge and Mata in the middle. We have made at least a dozen crosses against Norwich and QPR without anyone getting close to being on the end of one.

Overall, i have to say that we are still going backwards in terms of tactics and teamwork. Meireles isn't a holding midfielder, Sturridge has lost his form and our organisation at the back will be exposed against top four or CL opposition. Let's hope the Blue Kenyan won't be out too long but he surely won't make the Napoli games.

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