Premier League leaders Chelsea continued their impressive start to the new season with a 2-1 win over struggling West London rivals Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge Saturday. However, they relied on a late penalty from Eden Hazard to do so, after Charlie Austin cancelled out Oscar's excellent opener in the second half.
Unsurprisingly, the Blues dominated the game from the off, with QPR content to sit compact and soak up everything the hosts threw in their direction. It was a strategy that worked for the first half hour of the match, with Chelsea largely restricted to half-chances and optimistic long-range efforts.
However, QPR's resistance was eventually broken in the 32nd minute, with Chelsea's opener coming courtesy of a brilliant finish from Oscar. The Brazilian playmaker was found in space out on the right by Cesc Fàbregas, and proceeded to curl the ball first time past Robert Green and into the top corner of the net with the outside of his boot.
Chelsea comfortably held their lead to the halftime whistle, and they very nearly doubled it within a few minutes of the restart. The Blues struck on the counter-attack as QPR pushed forward, though Diego Costa narrowly failed to make contact on an excellent cross fizzed in from the right by Willian.
The Blues would be made to pay a heavy price for their profligacy when QPR stormed forward on the break to net an equalizer from nowhere just past the hour. Charlie Austin deftly flicked a scuffed Leroy Fer shot past Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net, with the Belgian goalkeeper completely wrong-footed by the deflection.
José Mourinho responded to QPR's equalizer by partnering Diego Costa with Didier Drogba, but they needed to be wary of neglecting their defensive duties. With just over 20 minutes left QPR midfielder Sandro lashed a volley towards the Chelsea goal, though it flashed agonizingly wide of Courtois' far post.
QPR continued to threaten on the counter-attack, until a rash challenge by Eduardo Vargas in the area with 15 minutes remaining gave Chelsea the chance to convert from the spot. Sure enough, Eden Hazard made no mistake, sending Green the wrong way and Chelsea into the lead for the second time.
Chelsea created numerous chances to kill the game after retaking the lead, with substitute André Schürrle and John Terry both forcing fine saves from the impressive Green. However, they didn't need a third goal, with the Blues comfortably hanging on to take a 2-1 victory.
Chelsea: Courtois; Filipe Luís, Terry, Cahill, Ivanović; Matić, Fàbregas; Hazard (Ramires 90+3'), Oscar, Willian (Drogba 64'); Diego Costa (Schürrle 78').
Goals: Oscar (32'), Hazard (pen. 75').
Queens Park Rangers: Green; Yun, Caulker, Dunne, Isla; Hoilett (Zamora 60'), Sandro, Henry, Vargas; Fer (Traore 84'); Austin.
Goals: Austin (62').
1. It's difficult to be optimistic about QPR's season
Despite QPR giving Chelsea a little scare in the second half of this game, they were still pretty poor for the vast majority of the match. Until Chelsea opened up late on, striker Charlie Austin continued to look extremely isolated up, and on the rare occasions they did find some space on the counter-attack, they were extremely wasteful. Eduardo Vargas' wasteful performance on the right of their attack was compounded when he conceded the late penalty.
2. Variation is the key for Chelsea
By now it's pretty common knowledge that José Mourinho is one of the most pragmatic managers at the top of European football, and his summer signings have enabled him to continue emphasize variation and versatility in Chelsea's attacks. The strength of striker Diego Costa allows him to hold the ball up and bring other teammates like Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian into play and allow Chelsea to dominate possession high up the pitch, but he's also got the pace and strength to make runs in behind defenses and latch onto long Cesc Fàbregas passes, which were a feature of Chelsea's first half display. For Mourinho and Chelsea, variation is the key.
3. Oscar continues to impress
The unsung hero of Chelsea's season so far has been play maker Oscar, who continued his impressive campaign with an outstanding goal in today's match. The Brazilian is very quietly effective, drifting across the attacking midfield zone and patiently probing until finally finding the space he needs to carve out a goal-scoring chance. There's a reason he's a fixture in José Mourinho's starting 11, and today he showed it.