SHOCK A HOOP! CHELSEA 0 QPR 1 PREMIER LEAGUE ACTION FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE; SWP returns to dent the Blues' fading title hopes.
HARRY REDKNAPP was right after all. Only a "dope" leaves out half his first team for a local derby.
Nothing hurts as much as the realisation that you have allowed yourself to be misled.
And as Redknapp orchestrated the most unlikely result of the season to date last night, the jeers that echoed round Stamford Bridge were a brutal reality check for Chelsea and Rafa Benitez.
Seven wins out of eight and a return to their trademark resilience and bite suggested the Spaniard was making Chelsea into unlikely title chels contenders.
Not any more, not after a night that put all those victories into proper perspective, as Benitez's faith in his rotation policy backfired badly.
Maybe watching the video of Rangers' capitulation to Liverpool fooled the Blues manager into believing he could leave out Ashley Cole, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard among five changes and still win at a canter.
Maybe he thought the knowledge that Demba Ba is about to put pen to paper would ensure Fernando Torres would send out a statement of his personal intent.
Instead, Chelsea, lucky to not be down to 10 inside four minutes when Marko Marin got away with a castiron, red-card foul on Stephane Mbia, saw fortune run out at the hands of an unlikely assassin.
In three years wearing Chelsea blue, Shaun Wright-Phillips scored one Premier League goal at the Bridge. Just one.
But 12 minutes from time last night, after Rangers had withstood a second-half siege as Chelsea finally turned up, the former England winger netted the most important goal he will ever score in SW6.
Esteban Granero's corner was only cleared as far as Adel Taarabt, who could have gone for goal himself.
The Moroccan instead laid off, inviting Wright-Phillips to unleash the right-footer past Ross Turnbull which could have such a significant effect on both these west London rivals.
For Rangers and Redknapp, their first victory at the Bridge since 1983, a first away triumph in 14 months, brought joy and life where there had been despair, only their second win of the season, although still not enough to lift them off the bottom.
But for Chelsea and Benitez, jeered off the park at the final whistle, 14 points off Manchester United's pace, all that is left is the quest for a top-four finish. And that, come what may, will never be good enough for Roman Abramovich.
In truth, despite that second half, nor did Chelsea, insipid, slovenly, sloppy and off-colour, deserve anything else.
That first 45 minutes saw them test Julio Cesar just once, Oscar's shot, deflected off Clint Hill, and kicked away by the Brazilian keeper.
They should have been down to 10 as well, with Marin, 240 seconds into his first Premier League start, guilty of an appalling studs-first lunge into Mbia's leg, which was, incredibly, deemed only worth a yellow card by referee Lee Mason.
Rangers, so embarrassing at the weekend, were a very different proposition, determined and organised, stifling Chelsea far too easily in that opening half.
And while the home side were far better after the restart, their moments of pressure were sporadic and they remained worryingly open at the other end.
Victor Moses should have nudged home Marin's cross, Branislav Ivanovic headed over when it seemed easier to score and when David Luiz's shot fell perfectly for Torres, he could not blast past the diving Cesar.
But when Rangers countered, only a terrific tackle by Gary Cahill prevented Jamie Mackie converting Taarabt's subtle pass while Shaun Derry wasted a header from the resulting corner.
Enter the cavalry, Hazard and then Mata on, Chelsea pushing for the one goal they needed to make it a perfect Christmas.
Frank Lampard thought he had levelled Kerry Dixon's 193 goals for the club when he drilled home from Moses, a flag decision that could have gone either way but favoured the visitors.
But Wright-Phillips' moment of composure changed everything, the disbelieving chants of the travelling fans as they began a victory chant none of them had truly envisaged teeing up the chorus of home disapproval.
CHELSEA: Turnbull 7, Azpilicueta 6, Cahill 7, Ivanovic 6, Bertrand 6, Luiz 7, Lampard 6 (Ramires 79), Marin 5 (Hazard 60, 6), Oscar 6, Moses 6 (Mata 75, 6), Torres 6. QPR: Julio Cesar 7, Onuoha 7, Nelsen 7, Hill 6, Fabio 7, Derry 6, Mackie 7, Mbia 7, Granero 6 (Park 90), Hoilett 5 (Wright-Phillips 16, 6), Taarabt 6 (Dyer 90).
MQ 7, Hi 7, Gra Phillip REF: Lee Mason ATT: 41,634
CHELSEA v QPR MAN OF THE MATCH JULIO CESARSuperb saves to keep Rangers alive BALL POSSESSION 36% 64% SHOTS ON TARGET 32 SHOTS OFF TARGET 3 13 CORNERS 2 14 OFFSIDE 31 FOULS 813 CARDS 11 0
LEAVING A MARKO ON STEPHANE ?Marin's X-rated tackle on Rangers midfielder Mbia
BLOWN AWAY Wright-Phillips fires in the winner to leave Lampard in despair (below left) Pics: KENT GAVIN s
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jan 3, 2013|
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