Queens Park Rangers were 6-1 to beat Chelsea at Loftus Road at the weekend. A bet of £10, not an unreasonable amount, would have paid for a lengthy drinking session at the local pub for a number of good friends.
For our nouveau riche, arrogant West London neighbours, money has long since been no object. However, their drink of choice would undoubtedly have been bitter, particularly for Andre Vilas Boas, who watched his moneyed charges lose composure amidst indiscipline and profligacy.
Some have been insensitive as to suggest – in the aftermath of this famous victory – that referee Chris Foy was the R’s proverbial twelfth man, ignoring the rules of the game in favour of doling out a lesson in humility to a side long accustomed to surrounding officials and raising a collective middle finger to the FA’s “Respect” campaign.
With allegations to this effect hanging over QPR, let us take a look at the incidents in question. Firstly, the penalty award was entirely justified. David Luiz’ challenge on Heidar Helguson was unbelievably clumsy and extremely easy to spot. The Icelandic striker was undoubtedly clever, in the manner in which he shifted his body and effectively invited the challenge, but it was nonetheless a fair spot kick award.
Jose Bosingwa’s sending off was perhaps the only real contentious decision made by Mr. Foy on Saturday. Wright-Phillips was in the clear, Bosingwa was to all intents and purposes the last man, and thus if the referee believed him to have committed the offence he is obliged to show the red card. The challenge itself was not excessively violent and certainly lacked any malice or apparent cynicism, but if you are going to make tackles on players with the goal at their mercy – bar the enormous frame of Petr Cech – then they must be timed to perfection, and Bosingwa’s simply wasn’t.
Drogba then demonstrated the true extent of Chelsea’s arrogance with a reckless, two-footed lunge on Adel Taarabt. Whilst many would love to dole out similar treatment to the temperamental, self-obsessed Moroccan, Drogba can have absolutely no argument that his challenge was worthy of a red card. This was the sending off which changed the game, not Bosingwa’s. With ten men on the pitch, Chelsea could probably have equalised, after all they came close enough having been reduced to just nine.
Pundits have also focused heavily on Chelsea’s various penalty shouts, all of which seem to have been accepted as reasonable by certain portions of the British media. The Lampard shout was little more than that, and a rather cynical attempt to redress the perceived imbalance of decisions by Foy. There was minimal contact between Hall and the Chelsea midfielder, certainly less than between Wright-Phillips and Bosingwa, it must be said, and the challenge was nowhere near as clumsy and blatantly against the rules of the game as Luiz’ felling of Helguson.
As for Luiz’ penalty shout, he was just as guilty of shirt-pulling, which was clearly the offence the Brazilian lamented the referee for “failing to spot”, as the player making the challenge for the hosts. Thus, the lack of a penalty award was once again fair, an inconvenient truth for many no doubt, including Vilas Boas, whose highly unprofessional post-match comments practically sanctioned Foy’s removal from top-flight refereeing.
The fact is that Chelsea’s indiscipline, not Foy’s refereeing, or misfortune, or anything else, was the deciding factor in this most heated of West London derbies. Blues fans ought to be looking a little closer to home rather than desperately searching for scapegoats, because even with nine men they dominated proceedings and really ought to have equalised – Nicolas Anelka will presumably be replaying that dire miss in his head for some time.
Imagining what Chelsea would have done to QPR had the number of players on each side remained constant at 11 is nothing short of terrifying, however, the excessive emphasis placed on Rangers’ inability to take control of the game seems a little unjustified. Few supporters and even fewer journalists or pundits would have given the R’s more than four points from the following five games – Chelsea at home, Tottenham Hotspur away, Manchester City at home, Norwich City away, and Stoke City away – yet Neil Warnock’s side already have three.
Too many teams have strolled through the Championship, beating away all comers with consummate ease, only to be annihilated in the top-flight whilst playing aesthetically-pleasing, relegation-bound football. Grit, determination, and excellent man-management have worked wonders for Stoke City. Perhaps we should allow Warnock to implement the same principles upon Queens Park Rangers this season, and assess the situation further in January, when the transfer window can be used to excellent effect, as a handful of teams have proven.