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Chelsea 1 - 0 Q P R


BlueLion.

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Chelsea FC 1 - 0 Queen's Park Rangers

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Premier League, 5 January, 15:00 KO, Stamford Bridge, London

Claudio Pizarro's first half strike found the back of the next courtesy of a fortunate ricochet off Lee Camp to put Chelsea into FA Cup Fourth Round.

Despite being officially ruled as an own goal by the away side's goalkeeper, Pizarro was credited with the assist. However it was the only real goalmouth action of a drab West London derby as Avram Grant's weakened Chelsea side took to the field against their local rivals, who fielded five debutants in this FA Cup tie. But despite fielding many full internationals in their team, Chelsea were second best for the opening part of the game as the away side seemed the more urgent of the sides.

Hilario continued to play in goal as Cech was still injured, and the back four was once again rotated in the full-back positions. Ashley Cole replaced Wayne Bridge and was handed the captain's armband, and Paulo Ferreira played in the right-back role. Opting to field a 4-5-1, Wright-Phillips and youngster Scott Sinclair occupied the wide positions whilst Steve Sidwell and John Obi Mikel continued in the central midfield spots. Up front was Claudio Pizarro, playing the feeding role to supply Salomon Kalou who operated further up field.

The early pressure was applied by Chelsea, but the visitors were fired up with adrenaline. After soaking up early danger which saw Lee Camp put under pressure by the imposing figure of Mikel, Rangers became the more fluent of the two sides as their attacks were played through the centre of Chelsea's midfield. Looking to prevent their neighbours from utilising their wide men, Sinclair and Wright-Phillips found themselves hard pressed by the opposing full-backs.

The match had died down in tempo but both sets of fans were exchanging less than friendly chants directed each other. On 17 minutes Ferreira fell down in the box. Looking for the penalty decision, the referee rightly declined as the Portuguese defender appeared to have tripped himself up. However with less than half an hour played, Chelsea made the most fortuitous of breakthroughs. Pizarro gathered the ball and lashed his shot from twenty five yards. The ball hit the far post and came back full-on, but Lee Camp's outstretched arm proved a catalyst in QPR's downfall as the ball bounced in after taking a deflection. Chelsea's number 14 celebrated but the goal was officially credited to the goalkeeper by the FA's dubious goals panel.

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Pizarro celebrates his assist.

Chelsea had two chances in as many minutes in the closing moments of the half. Kalou had directed the ball towards goal using his thigh following Wright-Phillips' free kick and the England winger himself had fired narrowly over from an acute angle seconds previous. Chelsea were gradually improving as the goal had knocked the confidence out of a QPR side who despite having some good possession of the ball, had failed to seriously test Henrique Hilario. The Portuguese was enjoying a quiet day at the office and was forced to jog on the spot to remain warm in the bitter cold.

Chelsea finally looked to have found goal themselves at the close of the first half as Steven Sidwell had Camp beaten with a terrific drive which came back off the post before being subsequently cleared. A 1-0 lead was all Chelsea possessed at half-time, but it would prove to be adequate nonetheless.

The second half saw a much improved away side, but it was Chelsea with the first chance of the second forty-five minutes. Alex's free kick was hit with Venom but an unsighted Camp did well to parry the ball away to safety after Kalou had caused mayhem in the box with a winding run through the Rangers defence. Danny Rowlands tested Hilario twice with half-volleyed efforts but both chances were spurned. The first was hit well over the crossbar and Hilario's gloves were warmed by the second as the keeper made his first save look as comfortable as it was.

Didier Drogba returned to make his first appearance after knee surgery and his last before heading to Ghana for the African Cup of Nations. The Ivorian enjoyed an easy return to first team life as he looked to get onto the score sheet, but it was Pizarro who had Chelsea's best opportunity of the second half, firing over when passing to Kalou would have been the better option. Michael Ballack and Joe Cole got run outs in the remaining 12 minutes as Chelsea hung on to claim a spot in Monday's cup draw.

______________________________________

Match Fact : Chelsea are now 54 games unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in all competitions.

Chelsea (4-5-1): Hilario (6), Ferreira (7), Alex (6), Ben-Haim (6), A Cole (6), Mikel (6), Sidwell (7), Wright-Phillips (7) (J Cole (6)), Pizarro (6) (Ballack (7)), Sinclair (6) (Drogba (6)), Kalou (7).

Unused subs Taylor, Belletti.

QPR (4-4-2): Camp (6), Connolly (5), Stewart (7), Hall (6), Barker (6), Ainsworth (5) (Agyemang (7)), Mahon (6), Rowlands (7), Ephraim (5) (Balanta (5)), Buzsaky (6) (Lee (5)), Blackstock (5).

Unused subs Bolder, Walton.

Referee Mike Dean

Crowd 41,289

Man of the Match : Paulo Ferreira

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Edited by BlueLion
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