'Untouchable' Fabregas lands QPR killer blow
QPR 0 Chelsea 1
Wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose in the victory against Stoke City last week, Cesc Fabregas played for 87 minutes at Loftus Road as if he had a restricted view.
The Spaniard's normally superb passing was off-target, he sent a close-range header over the crossbar and got caught in possession more than once.
In the 88th minute, however, Fabregas finally got something right and it might just be the goal that put Chelsea out of reach in the Premier League title race.
Chelsea had not managed a single effort on target until Fabregas placed a first-time shot into the net from an Eden Hazard pass, and restored his team's seven-point lead over second-placed Arsenal.
Fabregas has run games for Chelsea on numerous occasions, and has been one of the signings of the season, but this was not one of his vintage performances. It was, however, one of his most important interventions.
A draw would have given in-form Arsenal hope that they could still catch Chelsea at the top, but, with a game in hand, they now look uncatchable.
It will only hurt Arsenal more that their slim hopes were broken by their former captain, who manager Arsene Wenger passed up the chance to re-sign last summer.
Fabregas left Arsenal for Barcelona because he wanted trophies. Thanks to his goal yesterday, the midfielder is poised to finish his first season back in England, at Chelsea, with a Premier League title and the League Cup.
Having recovered from the forearm smash from Charlie Adam that had broken his nose a week earlier, Fabregas embodied the spirit and determination within the Chelsea squad that will get them over the line.
They were happy to scrap it out with QPR and fight fire with fire against Chris Ramsey's physical team. Gary Cahill and John Terry put their bodies on the line time and again, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made at least three crucial saves.
No wonder Ramsey sank to his knees with his head in his hands as Fabregas celebrated his winner. Despite good results against West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, QPR remain in the bottom three and have played a game more than most of their relegation rivals.
Just as alarmingly for Ramsey is the fact that QPR have now lost seven successive home games in all competitions. That trend will have to stop if they are to stage a meaningful fight against going down.
QPR goalkeeper Rob Green had not had a proper save to make until he gifted Chelsea their winner with an appalling attempted clearance that fell at the feet of Hazard.
Hazard swapped passes with Oscar before laying the ball on a plate for Fabregas, who celebrated by removing his mask and dodging missiles thrown by QPR supporters.
The coins and lighters descending from the stands did not deter Fabregas and his team-mates from celebrating like they had put one hand on the Premier League trophy at the final whistle.
Roman Abramovich watched his 700th game as Chelsea owner from the sun-bathed directors' box, in black sunglasses. It was largely a forgettable experience, but the billionaire will cherish a first title since 2010.
Mourinho will be allowed by Abramovich to strengthen his squad even further at the end of the season, and a striker is likely to be on the list of Chelsea targets.
With Diego Costa injured and Loic Remy having suffered a minor calf problem in training on Saturday, Chelsea had to rely on 37-year-old Didier Drogba against QPR.
Drogba has not scored for Chelsea since the defeat by Newcastle United in December and is finally beginning to look his age. The Ivorian's frustrating game was summed up by receiving a yellow card after losing possession on the edge of the QPR area.
Willian hit a post early on with a mis-hit cross, but otherwise it was QPR who created the better openings for most of the game.
Cahill was forced to make a goal-saving clearing header when a Matt Phillips cross seemed destined for the head of Steven Caulker, and top-scorer Charlie Austin tested Courtois with a well-struck 44th-minute shot.
Austin was inches from connecting with a Phillips cross moments after the break and Courtois made a save from Clint Hill, before preventing QPR scoring from their best move of the match. Bobby Zamora drilled in a low cross that found Phillips and he produced an excellent turn and shot that Courtois palmed around a post.
Chelsea's players were quick to acknowledge Courtois' role, who more than made up for being beaten from 60-plus yards by Adam against Stoke.
Mourinho may well have considered replacing Fabregas as he looked at ways of trying to find a winner, but the 27-year-old has made himself one of a new generation of Chelsea untouchables and landed a decisive blow of his own. (© Daily Telegraph, London).