MATCH REPORT: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0 CHELSEA 0
The Blues were held for the first time in this league campaign in what, despite no goals, was not a dull derby encounter.
It was on the whole an even contest. Queens Park Rangers can point to more genuine chances, especially after the break, but Chelsea spurned the best of all when Hazard fired over near the end, and it is very hard to explain why we weren't awarded a penalty when the same Chelsea player was clearly fouled in the first half.
The bright, attacking link-ups that have been evident on occasions this campaign were few and far between in this game. Victor Moses came on for his debut in the second half and with Daniel Sturridge introduced late on as well, we opened the visitors up more, but Rangers too could have won it near the end.
John Terry returned from suspension with both he and Ashley Cole over the injuries that had ruled them out of England games. Gary Cahill made way. Ramires came in on the right of midfield with Bertrand again on the left.
QPR made one change, new keeper Julio Cesar selected. Jose Bosingwa started at right-back for his new club.
Bertrand won a corner off Bosingwa inside the first minute from which Terry was only inches away from meeting with a near-post run.
With three minutes played Hazard should have scored from a flowing move he initiated. Torres weighted a ball nicely for Ramires to attack space down the right and the Brazilian whipped it in low - only for Hazard to fire too close to Julio Cesar.
With echoes of last season, QPR claimed an early penalty against David Luiz but Fabio had brushed against our defender and tumbled. However the home side did look to have teeth when they pushed forward in the early stages and Park crossed dangerously into our six-yard box before Cole headed away.
Ramires was the first player booked, for a trip on Alejandro Faurlin inside the Rangers half as he was just beaten to the ball with the home side trying to counter. Then Bobby Zamora brought the first save out of Cech. Torres then warmed the hands of Cesar as he turned back onto his left foot to shoot.
With 20 minutes gone, Fabio was replaced having admitted defeat in his attempt to overcome a couple of hard knocks received in the tackle. Nedum Onuoha came on for the on-loan Man United full-back and went to right-back with Bosingwa now on the left.
Both sides were taking turns to drive towards the other team's goal. It was fast, engaging football. Bertrand was booked for taking down Wright-Phillips as the ball was played into the former Chelsea man.
Both games between these sides at Loftus Road last season were decided by penalties, with one win apiece, and with Hazard on the pitch the odds were on spot-kicks, given or not given, being part of the story of the match again. The Belgian went on an incisive run towards the by-line and was clearly tripped from behind by Wright-Phillips who had been left chasing. Referee Andre Marriner decided to award a goal-kick and Chelsea could not believe the decision. There had been an earlier claim too when Terry was wrestled by Ryan Nelsen as a Chelsea free-kick was played into the Rangers area.
The home team lost another player to injury, Andrew Johnson, so Jamie MacKie came on shortly before David Luiz escaped his marker and powerfully headed a Lampard corner not too far off target.
A quickly taken Lampard free-kick caused the Rangers defence to be on the backfoot for a brief period and Mikel's sweetly-struck shot looked goalbound before a hooped shirt got in the way.
QPR had the first shot of the second period, Zamora and Park linking before Mackie found space to swivel and shoot. Cech didn't need to move far to deal with the effort.
Then the temperature of the game rose a few more degrees. It started with the best moment of skill of the game from Hazard, playing a pass out to Terry from behind his standing leg. Then Cole was caught painfully by a follow-through but play was waved on before Lampard was whistled up when he appeared to win a challenge cleanly.
QPR should have scored on 55 minutes after Chelsea slackness allowed Park a free header. There was relief when he planted it into the gloves of Cech.
Moses made his Chelsea debut on 58 minutes with Bertrand the man replaced.
There was no denying that Rangers were now on top, but they were hampered by wayward crossing and shooting from the likes of Wright-Phillips and Park.
Chelsea appeared to be missing the link-up between Mata and Hazard - the latter was not seeing enough of the ball. We changed shape to 4-3-3 with Hazard on the left of Torres and Moses on the right. Ramires was now deeper in midfield.
From his flank, Hazard worked space to whip a cross over that Ivanovic had to stretch well to meet beyond the far post but when he did, the Serbian was angry with himself for heading wide.
On 68 minutes, Hazard picked the pocket of Onuoha on halfway and raced away, slipping the ball on to Torres who tried to take on Anton Ferdinand but lost out. It wasn't happening for the Spaniard up front today. At the much-discussed handshakes before kick-off, Ferdinand didn't shake with Terry or Cole.
On 76 minutes came the great escape for Robbie Di Matteo's men. Mikel, who had enjoyed a good game but needed treatment minutes before, somehow was unaware of Zamora's presence as he played a pass back. The QPR striker took the ball wide of Cech but delayed his shot too long and when he did fire on target, there were Chelsea men back to block.
The Blues went straight down the other end and Moses did well to get a shot on target from a wide position - Julio Cesar shovelling it away.
Sturridge replaced Torres with 10 minutes remaining and he immediately looked sharp in combining with Hazard before running the ball out of play as he crossed.
On 86 minutes came a Chelsea chance as good as any of those QPR wasted. It was Moses who squared the ball to unmarked Hazard but from inside the area, the Belgian blazed over. We could have won it at the death with a swift counter-attack had Lampard not been closed down well as he shot, but so could Rangers had Cisse not shot against the ankle of David Luiz who was the only defender back.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Hazard, Bertrand (Moses 58); Torres (Sturridge 80).
Unused subs Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Romeu, Oscar.
Booked Ramires 13, Bertrand 26.
QPR (4-4-2): Cesar; Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Fabio (Onuoha 18); Wright-Phillips (Cisse 69), Granero, Faurlin, Park (c); Zamora, Johnson (Mackie 32).
Unused subs Green, Dyer, Hoilett, Taarabt.
Referee Andre Marriner