The QPR Monday Verdict: Every day must be derby day at Loftus Road
Rangers’ 1-0 win over fierce rivals Chelsea must be the blueprint for the rest of the season
QPR’s dramatic victory over Chelsea on Sunday afternoon represented the pinnacle of their season so far, but the challenge now must be to replicate that level of performance on a regular basis if Neil Warnock’s men are to make a realistic challenge for survival.
A display of grit, determination and passion from the Hoops ultimately proved too much for Chelsea who, although a superior footballing side, were simply unable to live with their hosts’ relentlessly high-tempo approach which delivered a deserved first home win of the campaign.
The match was the very epitome of a local derby; a high-octane, bruising encounter which produced nine bookings – seven of which went to the visitors – and straight reds for Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa which were to fatally undermine the visitors’ hopes.
Warnock suggested the result could be a landmark moment in the club’s history. Psychologically, certainly, it could represent a pivotal moment in their season; ahead of a testing trip to Tottenham and a home clash with Premier League leaders Manchester City, it has demonstrated that Rangers are capable of taking on and beating the best sides in the top flight. Perhaps most significantly, QPR have proved that fact to themselves.
The matches to come will not match the unique atmosphere, nor place the same demands, as the west London derby, but it is the fundamentals of QPR’s performance on Sunday which they must repeat week in, week out, particularly at home, if they are to avoid the drop-zone.
“We had a plan all week, we worked hard in training on what we were going to do, and we did our best to go forward when we could,” reflected Warnock after the match.
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“We had to show a lot of character today, a lot of guts, and I thought we played well eleven against eleven. These top clubs aren’t used to having their feathers ruffled, and that’s what clubs coming up have to do. But I still felt we played some good football as well at times.”
The football, in truth, often took a back seat as QPR ‘ruffled feathers’ all over the pitch, from front to back. The listless Drogba was rendered virtually anonymous even before his sending off by Anton Ferdinand – still suffering the effects of a virus – and Fitz Hall.
The tigerish trio of Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlin and Joey Barton hassled and harried Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Raul Meireles, John Mikel Obi and, later, Florent Malouda, from first minute to last. Even Adel Taarabt, much maligned for his lack of work ethic, put in a shift up front, measuring the usual array of fancy flicks with some disciplined defensive work.
Equally, Heidar Helguson gave John Terry a hugely uncomfortable afternoon, and drew the foul from David Luiz from which led to his successful penalty after only 10 minutes’ play.
It all equated to 90 minutes of blood and thunder during which Chelsea, crucially, were never allowed to gain a foothold. Once Helguson put QPR ahead from the spot, the hosts didn’t create many clear-cut chances, but then, until the final, frantic moments, neither did Chelsea.
Chelsea’s defiant manager Andre Villas-Boas complained at length about the sending off of Bosingwa and referee Chris Foy’s failure to award a penalty for Ferdinand’s innocuous brush with Lampard inside the penalty area, but even he had to recognise that his team struggled to function even with a full complement of eleven players.
So where do QPR go from here? White Hart Lane on Sunday is the simple answer, where Warnock’s side will need to produce the same level of performance against a Tottenham side high on confidence with five Premier League wins from the last six.
It is crucial that they do. With a daunting fixture list to come, it is still all too conceivable that QPR will find themselves drawn into a battle at the foot of the table by Christmas.
Rangers’ form so far this season has been alarmingly patchy, and the lacklustre display in the defeat at Fulham three weeks ago stands in even greater contrast to the result against Chelsea.
They cannot afford too many repeats of that afternoon; a glance at the upcoming games shows the names of Manchester United and Liverpool making trips to Loftus Road: although it is safe to say that neither will be relishing their trip to west London now.
But visits to Norwich and Stoke will, in many ways, be equally testing matches for Rangers, and having struggled to disappointing results against the likes of Fulham, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers already this season, QPR know they cannot afford to only turn up against the big sides.
Their fate this will not be defined by results against the likes of Chelsea, but their ability to scale the heights of their performance against their fiercest rivals on a weekly basis will have the biggest influence on their final position.
Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes