Bridge Banter: Two cups are Chelsea targets

First published in Sport

Rafa Benitez’s name was finally chanted at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night… by gleeful Rangers fans.

Celebrating a shock 1-0 win, 3,000 travelling Hoops gleefully serenaded the man still described with pointed exactitude on the Chelsea teamsheet as ‘interim first-team manager’.

He picks the players, determines the tactics, takes flak and plaudits, yet official club literature patronisingly calls him ‘interim’. You know what. Every manager is ‘interim’ under the czar.

His oppo on Wednesday, Harry Redknapp, is ‘manager’, yet is probably just as interim as Rafa, despite this unexpected result.

Titles aside (and that surely is the case for the Blues now), this was a peculiarly inept display from Chelsea to cap a festive spell of three wins, against Villa, Norwich and Everton.

Benitez rotated the squad, as you’d expect against the Premier League’s bottom club, dropping Ashley Cole, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard to the bench.

Factor in the absence of Petr Cech (ankle injury), the inclusion of relatively untested pocket-sized German corner-taker Marko Marin, second-half tiredness, an inability to shoot straight and uncharacteristically wayward passing, and QPR’s game plan – sit deep and hit on the break – worked.

Frankie Lampard seemed to be playing more like Frankie Howerd at times, while Hoops’ sub and former Stamford Bridge winger Shaun Wright-Phillips chose Wednesday to end a goal drought of nearly three years, having come on as sub after a quarter of an hour for the hamstrung David Hoilett.

All Chelsea’s Christmas endeavour and purpose was undone in 90 breathtakingly poor minutes, while Rangers may have finally been given the long-overdue kick-start their survival battle needed.

“We have the FA Cup now, and the Capital One Cup,” said Rafa afterwards. Not playing like this, you don’t.

Demba Ba’s signing from Newcastle means Fernando  Torres can at least be rested for a game or two.

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