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Oscar wonder goal helps Blues vanquish Hoops

SUPER STRIKE: Oscar celebrates after scoring (PA)

BRAZILIAN PLAYERMAKER Oscar was the star of the show providing a glorious goal that gave Chelsea the foundation to beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 during Saturday’s (Nov 1) engrossing west London derby.

The Blues struck first blood on 32 minutes with their number eight latching on to an incisive Cesc Fabregas through-ball, which Oscar hit first-time, from the inside-right of the box with the outside of his right boot, bamboozling the nonetheless-excellent Robert Green whose despairing dive got nowhere near the curling ball.

Green’s opposite number Thibaut Courtois was equally flummoxed as QPR drew level just after the hour mark when the in-form Charlie Austin produced an outrageous flick to wrongfoot the home side’s keeper, who was expecting Leroy Fer’s snatched effort to flash wide.

However, Chelsea’s mercurial Belgian winger Eden Hazard had the last word 15 minutes from time, when he was fouled in the area by Eduardo Vargas and converted the resultant spot-kick with aplomb.

Much of the game was dominated by Chelsea, yet despite their lion’s share of possession, Jose Mourinho’s men found it tough going against the visitors’ well-marshalled defence, led by the outstanding Richard Dunne.

The 35-year-old Irishman rolled back the years to tame the returning Diego Costa, who was back in the team after hamstring problems and illness had kept him from playing over the last few weeks. Former Tottenham and Cardiff centre-back Stephen Caulker looked assured in QPR’s backline, while Green performed admirably when called upon.

Mourinho, Redknapp and some of the players were concerned about the absence of floodlights for the opening 25 minutes, but it was Oscar who proved to be the real dazzling spark once they were eventually turned on.

It was not only his goal that illuminated the game's rather pedestrian start – the 23-year-old worked his socks off around the pitch, tracking back, tackling and linking up play to such an extent that he left his Portuguese boss purring after the match.

“Oscar was our best player,” Mourinho said. “When the team recovered the ball he was always sharp and fast, I think he was fantastic.”

“He played last Sunday [in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United], on Tuesday [in the 2-1 League Cup win over Shrewsbury Town] and today. Some other guys didn’t play in midweek so I would expect them to be fresher and sharper than him.

“He’s playing very well, pre-season was difficult for him after the World Cup but he’s giving balance to the team, lots of creativity and the goal is only possible in a very talented boy.”

IVORIAN POWER: Drogba shields the ball from Karl Henry (PA)

The Blues boss was otherwise disappointed by his team’s performance, in spite of the three points, and even reserved criticism for the home fans, whom, he cheekily claimed, were inaudible until Oscar’s superb strike sent them into raptures.

Since Chelsea were failing to build upon their 1-0 lead, QPR grew in belief, and Austin was certainly not lacking faith in his own ability as he successfully pulled off the audacious backheel-flicked goal that confounded one of the world’s best goalies.

The equaliser came minutes after Redknapp subbed off the disappointing Junior Hoillett for the imposing Bobby Zamora and it appeared that the ex-Spurs boss was throwing caution to the wind. Mourinho reacted immediately to being pegged back by bringing on his own powerhouse up front with Blues legend Didier Drogba replacing the ever-willing Willian.

QPR did not really threaten the hosts thereafter and Chelsea cranked up the pressure as Hazard continued to raid the flanks, while right-back Branislav Ivanovic’s muscular presence added another threat up top.

The breakthrough eventually arrived when Hazard was bundled off the ball in the box by Vargas, who had been QPR’s best player. Redknapp called the penalty decision “soft”, yet Hazard’s spot-kick was anything but as he smashed in the ball down low to the right, sending Green the wrong way.

A somewhat moody Mourinho, clearly aggrieved at his player’s general effort, said: “My team didn’t play well enough, or as well as I was expecting.

“We had periods of good football but not consistently. I’m happy with the points, which I felt we deserved, but it’s another thing to deserve it and play very well, which we didn’t.

“Even in the first half we weren’t terrific. We had a period that ended with the first goal, and then a period which started with their goal and finished, not with our second goal, but Green making two or three saves which kept them in the game,” the two-time Premier League winner added.

Redknapp took hope from the defeat, citing his side’s work ethic as cause for belief in surviving the drop. “We have to work as hard as that every game if we are to pick up some points and get out of trouble,” the former Bournemouth manager said.

“We worked hard against the best team in the country. It’s difficult to come here because they have so much talent, so much ability, so much strength.

“I was pleased with everything in the way we worked today, just disappointed about the penalty. I felt it was a soft penalty. We didn’t lie down... We deserved a point. Obviously they controlled most of the game... but we stuck in there and looked dangerous a few times on the break.

“It was a good away performance, we just didn’t quite get the rewards that I hoped we’d get.”

Man of the match: Oscar (Chelsea)

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