CHELSEA (6) vs QUEENS PARK RANGERS (1)
CHELSEA boss Roberto Di Matteo insists his team must beat Newcastle on Wednesday night if they are to secure a top-four Premier League finish, after Fernando Torres’ first Blues hat-trick gave them all three points against west London rivals QPR yesterday.
Goals from John Terry, Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda completed the 6-1 rout, although a late consolation from Djibril Cisse gave the vocal travelling Hoops’ fans something to cheer.
The win ended a sterling April for Di Matteo’s men, a month in which they have progressed to the FA Cup and Champions League finals and extended an unbeaten run to eleven games in all competitions.
“We just look after ourselves, it’s the only thing we can influence and we have to try to win the next game to have a chance to finish fourth,” the interim Chelsea manager said after the game.
Newcastle visit Stamford Bridge one point ahead, yet the Blues’ tails are up after another morale-boosting victory which saw a rejuvenated Torres score his first hat-trick in more than two and a half years.
“He was always working very hard for the team and putting assists on [in recent games],” Di Matteo said. “I’m pleased for him today, it’s great for a striker, for his confidence, but we work as a team.”
The defeat leaves QPR level on points with fellow relegation battlers Bolton Wanderers, having played one game more. Mark Hughes’ men now have a worse goal difference than Wigan, who they trail by three points.
“We’ve obviously damaged our own goal difference,” Hughes said, “We can’t be as naive as we were. You need big performances from everybody, we needed everybody playing at the top of their game, we didn’t get that today.”
Despite winning recent crucial home games, QPR still have the division’s worst away record.
The visitors endured the worst possible start to the game, as Sturridge cut in onto his right foot and curled the ball inside the near post from 20 yards – just 45 seconds after kick-off.
The game had begun without the usual handshakes between the players, a decision taken due to the ongoing case involving Terry and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry stands accused of racially abusing Ferdinand earlier this season, a charge he denies.
And it was Terry who doubled the lead on 12 minutes, rising above Clint Hill to head in a Frank Lampard corner.
Chelsea went into cruise control, passing the ball confidently through QPR despite heavy rain and a water-soaked pitch. A superb through-ball from Salomon Kalou set Torres free to round goalkeeper Paddy Kenny for the third, and Chelsea soon had a four-goal lead as the Spaniard took advantage of a mistake by Nedum Onuoha.
In the second half QPR pressed forward and Jamie Mackie went close from distance, yet they were caught on the break allowing Torres, who is seeking a Spain recall for Euro 2012, to grab his hat-trick, springing the offside trap and side-footing past Kenny. Substitutes Ramires and Malouda combined for a sixth goal 10 minutes before the end, before Cisse turned in a late consolation to deprive goalkeeper Petr Cech of a clean sheet.
TOP FOUR RUN-IN
5 May, Norwich (H)
13 May, West Brom (A)
2 May, Bolton (A)
6 May, Aston Villa (A)
13 May, Fulham (H)
2 May, Chelsea (A)
6 May, Man City (H)
13 May, Everton (A)
2 May, Newcastle (H)
8 May, Liverpool (A)
13 May Blackburn (H)