No Frank, no JT, no Petr, for an hour no Drog. And no Special One. Much had changed since Chelsea's last FA Cup tie, the 2007 final against Manchester United a few miles away across London. Roman is not even the richest man in football any more.
One similarity with that May day was the dullness of the game. Not only was it short on goalmouth incident, it was lacking in passion. Given this was a local derby, Queen's Park Rangers' first against their neighbours in 12 years, more than the one booking could have been expected. Yet while Rangers' supporters made their desire clear their players treated the match more as an intellectual challenge than a physical one. This doubtless pleased their coach, the technician Luigi de Canio, but it made life easier for Chelsea. Even without playing well they were always going to win a passing contest.
That they only did so due to a fortunate own goal, Claudio Pizarro's shot skidding off Fitz Hall's studs, rebounding off the post, and in off the prone Lee Camp, underscored the poverty of Chelsea's performance. Fortunately for Avram Grant Abramovich was in Russia. Notwithstanding the lengthy injury list matches like this are one of the main reasons Jose Mourinho is now at leisure in Setubal.
Only three of last year's finalists started for Chelsea, Paulo Ferreira, Shaun Wright-Phillips and John Obi Mikel, but even with Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech out Grant had enough in reserve to leave Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Joe Cole on the bench. Not that Chelsea looked much sharper when they came on.
"They are one of the best teams in Europe but at times we made them look ordinary," said Gavin Mahon, one of seven new recruits featuring for QPR. The former Watford captain added: "If we had a little more quality on the break I think we would have had one or two more chances against them."
Chelsea are the model for QPR's unimaginably wealthy new owners Lakshmi Mittal, Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore (combined worth 21bn). The latter, according to Mahon, appears to be the most active partner. "When I met Flavio he told me he had a three-year plan but I know deep down he wants to get up sooner than that," said Mahon, who has signed on a 200,000 loan until his contract expires in June. Mahon added: "That's why he's spending big in January to get a squad to pick up as many points this season and see where it takes us. Next season I think he is really going to go for it. This man is ambitious. You don't come to a struggling club, spend a few million pounds and then just say, 'Oh, it hasn't worked out'."
No, you sack the manager and try another one, just as impoverished clubs do. QPR's potentates should have learnt one lesson from their neighbours on Saturday: In football, even a large fortune does not guarantee quality.
Goal: Camp og (28) 1-0.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Hilario; Ferreira, Alex, Ben Haim, A Cole; Wright-Phillips (J Cole, 79), Mikel, Sidwell, Sinclair (Drogba, 60); Pizarro (Ballack, 71), Kalou. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Belletti.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-1-1): Camp; Connolly, Stewart, Hall, Barker; Ainsworth (Agyemang, h-t), Rowlands, Mahon, Ephraim (Balanta, 65); Buzacky (Lee, 50); Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Bolder, Walton.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Queen's Park Rangers Hall.
Man of the match: Rowlands.
Attendance: 41, 289.
Call from Capello?
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
The captain for the day was sound throughout. Shaun Wright-Phillips's wasted potential deserved the QPR taunt 'we won't be buying you'.Reuse content