Chelsea lost a pulsating match in which all of their outfield players who started the match were booked, with two – Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba – red-carded in what was a scrappy affair. With Manchester United being smashed to the boundaries for six earlier in the match, a win at Loftus Road would lift Chelsea above United in the table, but no-one could have predicted what was about to unfold in the West London sunshine.
After a great Champions League win against Genk mid-week, Andre Villas-Boas rotated his side again. Didier Drogba came in for the suspended Fernando Torres, Meireles came in for the injured Ramires and Luiz came back from being rested. Frank Lampard, who was making his 500th Premier League appearance, relinquished his captaincy duties from mid-week, with John Terry brought back in the heart of defence.
It was a very quiet opening, in which no real team had the better of one another. Daniel Sturridge, on red-hot form this season, had a shot that was scuffed wide, and David Luiz made strong runs into their half. But what Luiz can do in going forward, he horribly lacks going back. With Helguson’s back to goal and going nowhere, Luiz shoved a hand into his back and the Icelandic made the most of his opportunity to fall to the ground. Chris Foy, who was to have a busy afternoon, gave the penalty, to a bemused Luiz. The Icelandic dispatched the penalty to Cech’s right, though the keeper did get some glove on it.
The home fans’ happiness was soon to turn to jubilation. With Chelsea failing to have a real impact in the match, Shaun Wright-Phillips found a way through, with David Luiz at fault in letting him past. Jose Bosingwa, whilst back-tracking, could only haul down the former Chelsea man. Though he got back up straight away, Foy was even more rapid in his reactions – a red card pulled out from his pocket, and Chelsea were down to ten men.
Daniel Sturridge was the unfortunate man to be sacrificed, with Ivanovic coming on to shore up the back, with Chelsea in a 4-3-2 formation. But their day was soon to become worse, with Didier Drogba sliding horribly in two-footed into Adel Taarabt, and the uphill task facing Chelsea was becoming more and more impossible.
With Juan Mata left at the top and not really being an out-and-out striker, the Spaniard was taken off for Nicolas Anelka before half-time, in a 4-3-1 formation.
Frustration grew and grew for Chelsea, but the second-half started positively for the visitors. Meireles crossed from the right, and Lampard’s header was deflected inches wide. More chances came, with Lampard again being involved, and though QPR had a numerical advantage, it was Chelsea that seemed more fired up to score an equaliser.
Chelsea continued to press and Lampard could have easily had a penalty when he was man-handled to the ground by Fitz Hall. At the other end, Helguson could have doubled his tally for the day when he volleyed over unmarked from a free-kick from the right. Again, Chelsea continued to press, and had the best opportunity to score. Ivanovic surged down the right wing, and beautifully crossed with the outside of his right boot. The ball was planted onto Nicolas Anelka’s head, but all he could do was head straight at the grateful Paddy Kenny from three yards out. Point-blank range, and the gasps from the away end said it all.
More chances came, David Luiz surged forward and acrobatically hit an over-head kick, only for it to bounce off Lampard’s foot and go over. With full-time looming, Cech was sent forward in one last-gasp attempt, and though he did get a head on it, the ball found its way to the grateful hands of Paddy Kenny.
A tough day in the office for AVB. Knowing United were humiliated, and knowing City are a real threat, Chelsea could have taken a huge psychological advantage by winning this derby, but it was not to be. Chelsea managed just one red card in the entire season last year; that was immediately doubled in just one match, and whilst last year Chelsea received an award from the FA for their fair play, it looks very unlikely the same will happen this season.
David Luiz, a real prospect when he was bought at the top of the year, has turned into a mini-nightmare. Whoever said he was a “defender” on paper needs to check again, as Luiz himself does not even treat himself as a defender, often making runs into the opponent’s half and not knowing what to do to defend. AVB cannot afford to leave this £25m talent on the bench, but he cannot afford to put him in defence, having given away three penalties already in his short Chelsea career.
Some will argue this is premature, but AVB must be careful now. A win should have been a formality, but having lost, there is more pressure than before the match. With Everton mid-week, AVB might decide to give some kids action. Should that back-fire, that’s two defeats in a row. After that, the following three matches include both Arsenal and Liverpool, and should those not go to plan, there will be questions asked.
But should Chelsea win mid-week and do convincingly in the next few matches, the talk will not be of a blip, but more of a match which referee Chris Foy cost us.