The home side held firm for 88 minutes against the league leaders, but eventually gave way to precision and technique as a masked Cesc Fabregas scored with two minutes in regulation to restore Chelsea’s big lead in the Premier League title battle.
Fabregas wore a protective mask to cover his broken nose suffered last week, but it didn’t keep him from scoring Chelsea’s winner on their only shot on target as QPR proved spirited but just fell short of pulling themselves from the relegation zone.
It took Chelsea a few minutes to get themselves going but they eventually maintained solid possession. The first chance of the game was a cross of all things, one from Willian on the right wing that clanged the post on seven minutes gone.
The first half progressed with few landmark events, as the game turned into a chess match. As expected beforehand, QPR looked to use its physicality to peg back Chelsea, while the visitors used its technical ability to keep QPR off the ball for long spells. Chelsea always looked the more threatening side, as the home side had little to offer up front with their strikers cut off from the rest of the squad.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
However, Chelsea struggled to produce any serious chance in front of goal without Diego Costa and Loic Remy, and the half-hour mark passed with little for either fans to cling to. The best hope for the home side was corner count, which racked up in their favor, but there was little challenge in the box when they were flung in.
The first shot on target appeared just before halftime as Charlie Austin ripped an effort from distance, and a good one, that forced Thibaut Courtois into an acrobatic save. QPR carried that momentum into the second half, as Matt Phillips whipped in a scything cross but it just eluded Bobby Zamora at the far post minutes after the break. Clint Hill then tried a curling effort but it settled into the arms of Courtois.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
Lacking any type of attacking threat in the second half, Jose Mourinho brought on Oscar just before the hour mark and Chelsea immediately responded, getting forward with greater intent. But QPR didn’t give up. Phillips got a ball from Zamora in the box, and with his back to goal he spun Nemanja Matic around and ripped a point-blank shot, but it went right at Courtois who parried well.
Austin remained a threat as both teams rung changes with 10 minutes to go, but he still could not get a ball past Courtois, and QPR would eventually pay for not taking chances. A horrible punt from Rob Green fell back to Chelsea, and they charged down the left flank. Oscar and Eden Hazard combined and and laid off to Fabregas charging into the box, and the masked man beat Phillips to the ball and thundered in a drive for the lead.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
That was it for QPR, who held firm for 87 minutes before finally capitulating to the league leaders and the air came out of the previously rambunctious Loftus Road. The three points for Chelsea restore a seven point lead at the top of the table, still with a game in hand. QPR, meanwhile, fail to pounce on losses by those around them and remain in the relegation zone, two points from safety.
The result caps off a perfect day for the Blues, who also escape without a yellow card for either Fabregas or Nemanja Matic, who would have received a suspension against both Arsenal and Manchester United had they been cautioned. Instead, the yellow card record is wiped clean for the stretch run per Premier League rules.
QPR: Green, Isla, Caulker, Onuoha, Hill, Phillips, Sandro (Kranjcar 81′), Barton, Henry, Zamora, Austin.
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Ramires (Oscar 56′), Willian (Cuadrado 80′), Hazard; Drogba.
Goals – Fabregas 88′