Mata’s penalty gives Blues derby victory
QPR 0 Chelsea 1
Juan Mata’s penalty settled the west London grudge match and sent Chelsea into the FA Cup fifth round.
The Spaniard showed great composure to score after Daniel Sturridge had gone down under a challenge from Clint Hill.
But his team’s victory was somewhat marred by an injury to Ramires, who was stretchered off 12 minutes from time after falling awkwardly.
The spotlight was inevitably on Anton Ferdinand and John Terry given the furore surrounding the pair since the latter was accused of racially abusing the QPR centre-back when these teams met three month ago.
After much speculation about whether Ferdinand would shake Terry’s hand before kick-off, there were no handshakes at all – as the whole pre-match procedure was scrapped.
Back at Loftus Road for the first time since the alleged incident involving Ferdinand, Terry was predictably barracked by the home fans.
He looked nervous on the ball in the opening stages, but his team’s display with nine men against Rangers in October suggested the home side had reason to feel anxious.
QPR won that controversial clash courtesy of Heidar Helguson’s early penalty but spent much of the game chasing shadows despite the first-half dismissals of Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba.
That gave an indication of the gulf in class between these two neighbours and it was evident again for much of this encounter.
But for all Chelsea’s neat approach play, it took a hotly disputed penalty on the hour-mark for them to break the deadlock.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot despite Hill’s furious insistence that Sturridge dived, and Mata coolly netted his eighth goal of the season.
It came barely a minute after QPR had almost scored against the run of play.
Shaun Wright-Phillips’ shot was parried by keeper Petr Cech towards an unmarked Jamie Mackie, who was unable to react quickly enough to make contact.
Nevertheless, Chelsea’s breakthrough was a deserved one as they had been well on top.
They dominated most of the first half and Mata brought a save from Paddy Kenny after a slip by R’s defender Luke Young.
And early in the second period, Fernando Torres cleverly turned away from Ferdinand and Hill to tee up Sturridge, who blazed over.
After Mata picked his spot, sending Kenny the wrong way, Rangers rarely looked like finding an equaliser – although Cech produced an injury-time save to deny Young.
And the loss of Ramires robbed Chelsea of the game’s most impressive player.
As sweet as this victory will taste for the Blues, the prospect of a long spell without the Brazilian midfielder will cause them real concern.
Follow West London Sport on Twitter
Find us on Facebook