Rangers fall to Furlong's final flourish

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Football

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Chelsea 2

QPR, seeking their first London derby points of the season after five unsuccessful attempts, failed again last night when a far-post header from Paul Furlong two minutes into injury time gave Chelsea victory.

It was perhaps less than Rangers deserved, certainly less than they needed given their perilous position one off the bottom of the Premiership.

Their prospects had seemed very different when they took the lead through Bradley Allen 20 minutes from the end, capitalising on a temporary numerical advantage following Ruud Gullit's departure on a stretcher after he had exacerbated a problem with his sciatic nerve. But the lead lasted just eight minutes before their 19-year-old midfielder Matthew Brazier - one of six players of 23 or under in the home side - headed the ball high into his own net with nightmarish precision as he tried to cover a cross from Michael Duberry.

Only a few seconds before the final whistle, the man who came on for Gullit, Gavin Peacock, produced a temptingly flighted cross from the left which Furlong, rising high over his marker Danny Maddix, dispatched with delight.

"It is always rewarding when you win," said Chelsea's manager Glenn Hoddle, although his demeanour was hardly gleeful. "That is the poorest we have played in six or seven games, and we are disappointed with that. But we are grateful for the points."

Ray Wilkins, Rangers' manager, was characteristically phlegmatic about the result, but he did betray glints of annoyance at what he termed the "little mistakes" his side had made. "I don't think Danny was aware that Furlong was there at the end. But this is a defeat, not a horror video. We're playing good football and giving away bad goals."

For all the diligent passing movements put together by both sides in the first half, it was debatable whether the proceedings offered more entertainment than the pre-match spectacle - all flags, brass and pom- poms - of a visiting American high school band brought over as part of the London Parade.

The early stages of the West London parade were dowdy in comparison, but after 30 minutes Gullit created the first chance of the game with a long cross from the right, which Furlong knocked it back across goal. Dennis Wise, sliding in, saw his shot ricochet off Jurgen Sommer's knees.

Just past the hour Gullit came alive, driving a loose ball from outside the box past Sommer, only to see Steve Yates clear off the line. When the ball came out to him again, he returned it with interest but it cleared the bar by inches. It was a sudden reminder that football can be a thrilling game.

Sadly it can also be a cruel one, and Gullit departed in pain in the 69th minute after injuring himself attempting a shot on the turn.

Rangers struck immediately as Sinclair's cross from the left created confusion in the Chelsea defence and Allen - all of 5ft 7in - was left free to guide it inside the far post with his head. But for Rangers, it was a false hope.

Queen's Park Rangers (3-5-2): Sommer; Ready (Bardsley, 82), Yates, Maddix; Impey, Quashie (Dichio, 83), Holloway, Brazier, Challis; Allen, Sinclair. Substitute not used: Wilkins.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Kharin; Duberry, Lee, Myers; Petrescu, Gullit (Peacock, 69), Newton, Wise, Clarke; Spencer (Spackman, 84), Furlong. Substitute not used: Dow.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

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