Hope springs eternal

Heading into last night’s game between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, most observers agreed it was a matter of how many goals the hosts would win by.

Relief | Adel Taarabt and goalscorer Shaun Wright-Phillips embrace following the 1-0 victory over Chelsea. (Image | BBC)
Relief | Adel Taarabt and goalscorer Shaun Wright-Phillips embrace following the 1-0 victory over Chelsea. (Image | BBC)

Bottom-of-the-table QPR were to be handed a similar thrashing to Aston Villa, mercilessly destroyed 8-0 by the Blues a little over a week ago, by their bitter rivals.

Yet a run of excellent form that had seen Chelsea snatch all three points at Goodison Park on Sunday came to an abrupt end courtesy of a disciplined, defensively-watertight display.

After Luis Suárez had conspired to humiliate the Rangers backline at the weekend, most notably Clint Hill, the dejected players finally stood up and listened to manager Harry Redknapp.

Ryan Nelsen once again proved his worth with a performance belying his years at the back, while the manner in which the side recovered from losing to Liverpool was inspirational.

Playmaker Adel Taarabt performed superbly in an unfamiliar centre forward role, setting up Shaun Wright-Phillips for the winger to score a euphoric winner on 78 minutes.

The result means that while QPR remain at the foot of the division, they are now only five points from safety and the run of 13 months without an away win is over.

For Rafael Benítez the result was not only humiliating but also deeply damaging, given that Redknapp had claimed he would have to be a “dope” to fail at Chelsea.

A defeat at home to the worst side in the Premier League is embarrassing enough, but doing so having left out Juan Mata and Eden Hazard raises questions as to how seriously the Spaniard was taking the game.

Such concerns were irrelevant for the Rs, however, who must now look to build on a first clean sheet on the road since November against Tottenham Hotspur on January 14.

Spree

Having said that a victory could be enough to alter perceptions both within the club and outside it, Redknapp will be aware that he may have found the perfect justification for a January shopping spree.

Coming back | Striker DJ Campbell is returning to QPR after a successful loan spell at Ipswich Town. (Image | EADT)
Return | Striker DJ Campbell is heading back to QPR after a successful loan spell at Ipswich Town. (Image | EADT)

With Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell returning to bolster the ranks up front, the main priority is now signing a proven defender capable of easing the pressure on Hill and Nelsen.

Although yet to persuade supporters of his capability to add any value at all to the Rangers squad, Bothroyd returning does at least provide another option on the bench, while Campbell fully deserves another chance.

Furthermore, forcing Djibril Cissé to train hard and demonstrate the type of effort that has been lacking throughout the campaign in order to return to the side is essential.

What the result last night ought to have done is inject some sorely-needed self-belief into the team, who could have been forgiven for assuming that every away trip was destined to end in disappointment and ultimate failure.

There remain huge obstacles ahead for Redknapp and his charges, notably the visit of champions Manchester City later this month.

However, ending a four-match winning run by an outfit that had been widely tipped to place the Citizens under inexorable pressure over the next few weeks is a major achievement.

Given that this derby triumph – on a ground where QPR had not won in the league since 1983 – came three days after an abject, bitterly demoralising defeat at home, it is nothing short of exceptional.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking


Originally published on Sky Sports on Thursday January 3 2013.

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