Queen's Park Rangers. . .0
IT IS one of the ironies of life that fortune usually favours the already successful. But on this occasion Chelsea, looking for their first win of the season, rode their luck to beat their table-topping West London neighbours QPR.
Much of the game had all the wildness of a wild west showdown without any of the excitement, or indeed the sharp shooting. And it was only after Mick Harford scored Chelsea's goal just before the hour that either side played any imposing football.
The goal itself came from an error by Jan Stejskal in the Rangers goal. Harford's cross fell back to the Chelsea centre-forward who shot through a crowd of players in the box. Stejskal seemed to have saved but the ball reared out of his grasp and stole inside his right-hand post.
He almost compounded this error a minute later when he tried to control the ball outside his area and nearly lost it. But before his afternoon could slip away into nightmare he reminded the Rangers faithful of his true value, getting down well to save Graham Stuart's low shot.
The goal itself was not the only portent of Chelsea's new found good fortune. By their manager's own admission they 'were lucky to go in at half-time on 0-0'. In the third minute Clive Wilson, anxious to put one over his old club, beat three Chelsea players in his own half before putting Dennis Bailey clear with a through ball. The QPR striker pulled his shot wastefully wide.
Four minutes later Les Ferdinand met Andrew Impey's cross at the far post but headed over.
Rangers seemed able to dominate the flow of play without securing the vital break. Their midfield, built around the rapier of Ray Wilkins, was much more fluent than its Chelsea counterpart, centred upon the bludgeon of Vinnie Jones.
In the second half they did push forward with more purpose, but so did Chelsea. The home side at last began to find some width in their attacks. Wilson had to make a saving tackle to prevent Stuart from reaching Harford's knockdown only five minutes before Chelsea broke the deadlock.
Penrice came on for Bailey in the 64th minute but it was Ferdinand who continued to threaten the Chelsea goal most gravely. He stirred Dave Beasant to one fine acrobatic save with a rising shot towards the top corner. He then clattered into the Chelsea keeper, striving to reach Bardsley's deep cross from the right. And 10 minutes from time he seemed certain to score when he robbed the last defender and advanced on goal. He placed his shot wide of Beasant and of the left-hand post.
The bombardment that rained down on Chelsea's area in the closing moments produced more tension than chances, as Rangers came to terms with the fact that this was not to be their day.
While Ian Porterfield, the Chelsea manager, was well pleased with his team's first win of the season, Gerry Francis, the Rangers boss, swallowed his obvious disappointment in the result and tried to look at the broader picture: 'If anyone had told me before this season began that after two weeks we would be top of the table I would have been delighted. I would have probably called him a liar too.'
The truth is, however, that Rangers were unlucky not to get something out of this game.
Chelsea: D Beasant; S Clarke, G Hall, V Jones, P Elliott, M Donaghy, G Stuart, R Fleck, M Harford, A Townsend, D Wise. Subs not used: D Lee, E Newton, N Colgan (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.
Queen's Park Rangers: J Stejskal; D Bardsley, C Wilson, R Wilkins, D Peacock, A McDonald, A Impey, S Barker, L Ferdinand, D Bailey (G Penrice, 64 min), A Sinton. Subs not used: D Maddix, T Roberts (gk). Manager: G Francis.
Referee: A Buksh (London).
Goal: M Harford (59 min).Reuse content