QPR 1 Chelsea 0
Nine-man Chelsea were sent tumbling to a dramatic defeat in the west London derby, with Heidar Helguson’s early penalty giving QPR a momentous victory – their first home win since returning to the Premier League.
In the first league clash between these neighbours since Rangers were relegated from the top flight in 1996, the home side – massive underdogs to cause an upset – delivered the win their supporters so badly wanted and had waited so long for.
They rode their luck in order to do so, making the most of Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba being sent off in the first half.
Ultimately, however, Rangers got their reward for managing to unsettle their opponents, who simply paid the price for losing their discipline in the pressure cooker that was a packed Loftus Road.
Helguson netted from the spot after being nudged over in the box by David Luiz, and worse followed for Andre Villas-Boas’ team in a frenetic first period.
Bosingwa was dismissed for a professional foul on 32 minutes after bringing down Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Drogba was red-carded following a reckless two-footed challenge on Adel Taarabt nine minutes later.
The result fully justified Neil Warnock’s decisions to again give Helguson the nod over Jay Bothroyd up front and to restore Taarabt, who was left out against Blackburn last weekend.
And the R’s boss made another important judgement call when he replaced Taarabt with the experienced Tommy Smith just after the hour mark, when Rangers were being stretched despite Chelsea having only nine players.
Taarabt’s contribution while he was on was significant. His excellent pass which led to Bosingwa’s afternoon ending prematurely came as Rangers were battling to hang onto the lead Helguson had given them.
Luiz felt aggrieved after being adjudged to have fouled the Icelander, as did Taarabt after being told he would not be taking the resulting spot-kick, which keeper Petr Cech got a hand to but was unable to keep out of the net.
Coming after only nine minutes, the goal was massive boost for Rangers – as was referee Chris Foy’s decision to give Bosingwa his marching orders.
Bosingwa was the last man back as he tried to prevent Wright-Phillips latching onto Taarabt’s perfect through-ball and when the former Chelsea man hit the floor, Foy took decisive action.
A goal and a man down, and with the home fans revelling in their team’s tireless determination to unsettle their glamorous neighbours, the growing frustration of Chelsea’s players was evident.
And Drogba let his agitation get the better of him, hurling himself at the impressive Taarabt to leave his team another player short.
Even the ever-composed Frank Lampard, making his 500th Premier League appearance, lost his cool after a late challenge by Shaun Derry early in the second half and was booked.
Chelsea, to their credit, did look a threat after the interval despite their numerical disadvantage; underlining their ability and perhaps the task Rangers would have been up against without the sendings off.
But while they pressed for an equaliser, they were inevitably open to counter attacks and Luke Young missed a great chance to put Rangers further ahead when he shot wide after being teed up by Taarabt.
Chelsea continued to drive forward and appealed in vain for a penalty after Lampard went down under Fitz Hall’s challenge while attempting to meet Ashley Cole’s low cross, and when Luiz felt he was held back by Helguson.
At the other end, Joey Barton fired narrowly wide and later sent in a perfect ball from the right for Helguson, who failed to hit the target at the far post.
But the biggest culprit in front of goal was Nicolas Anelka, who missed a golden opportunity to level when he headed Branislav Ivanovic’s cross straight at keeper Paddy Kenny.