In the end, Chelsea’s second defeat of the season went down in entirely predictable fashion as another London derby ended with tempers frayed and the Blues with reduced numbers.
Heidar Helguson’s early penalty proved enough to seal three points for Queens Park Rangers which were celebrated as loudly as any in their history, as first half red cards for Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba left their West London rivals facing more than an uphill struggle.
Villas-Boas made a number of changes from the midweek Champions League thrashing of Genk, with John Terry, John Obi Mikel, Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge and Drogba all returning to the side.
Despite good amounts of early possession, Chelsea found themselves a goal behind after just ten minutes when referee Chris Foy made the first of a series of contentious decisions in awarding the hosts a penalty for David Luiz’s chest-bump on Icelandic veteran Helguson.
The forward picked himself up to shake off the attentions of team-mate Adel Taarabt in wanting to take it to give his side the lead, although Petr Cech did get a touch with a swipe of his left hand.
The visitors continued to enjoy a lot of time with the ball, but rarely found sufficient space in which to carve out quality openings. Neil Warnock’s side defended deep and in numbers, and looked to take advantage of their more illustrious opponents on the break with long balls over the top.
One such hopeful ball forward caused problems for Jose Bosingwa a little over halfway through the first half. A tussle for leverage with Shaun Wright-Phillips saw the former Chelsea man fall over under the attentions of his Portuguese opponent and referee Foy was quick to issue a red card for a professional foul.
Captain Terry was adamant in his belief that he would have provided sufficient cover as to deem it far from a conclusive goalscoring opportunity, but the decision was made and Chelsea were down to ten.
Villas-Boas opted to replace Sturridge with Branislav Ivanovic in response, leaving Drogba as the lone forward, a move which caused some consternation amongst the sold out visiting crowd, and when the Ivorian too was given his marching orders for a poor tackle on Taarabt before half time, the Blues found themselves with quite the hole to climb out of.
Mata duly made way for Nicolas Anelka as Villas-Boas switched things up to a 4-3-1 formation, before retiring to the Loftus Road changing rooms to concoct a plan of action for the second half.
Rangers had offered little by way of attacking nous but with a comfortable advantage numerically and a fervent home crowd behind them, they were favourites to go on and put the game to bed early after the restart.
Instead, they were on the back foot early and often. With Meireles and Lampard covering every blade of grass between the penalty areas, both full-backs getting up in support and David Luiz and Terry taking it in turns to support Anelka in attack, Chelsea were able to take control of the game.
Barely five minutes of the second half had been completed when Lampard went close to connecting with a cross from the right, whilst Terry curled an effort just wide of Paddy Kenny’s far post.
A flare-up between Lampard and Shaun Derry earned both a booking from Mr Foy, who would go on to book a total of seven Chelsea players in addition to the two red cards.
After the match, Villas-Boas claimed that the officials were never in control of the game and as Lampard, Terry, and Luiz twice were all denied valid penalty shouts, Chelsea’s sense of aggrievement became more and more tangible.
Certainly, if Luiz’s foul on Helguson in the first half was deemed worthy of a spot kick, then at least one of the Blues’ second-half appeals should have been measured by the same stick.
Instead, Foy gave them short shrift and affairs threatened to boil over in the late stages when Terry was involved in altercations with both Kenny and Anton Ferdinand.
QPR should have added a second when both Joey Barton and Luke Young missed chances from the inside right channel but Petr Cech made just one save of note in the second half and played more as a sweeper than a goalkeeper.
Anelka was presented with the gilt-edged chance Chelsea had hoped for ten minutes from time but he nodded his close range header straight at Kenny and despite some late pressure, they were unable to find a way through.
Drogba will now serve a three-match ban whilst Bosingwa will miss the midweek Carling Cup trip to Everton, as will Ashley Cole, who picked up his fifth caution of the season.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Luiz, Cole, Mikel, Meireles (Malouda 72), Lampard, Mata (Anelka 44), Sturridge (Ivanovic 36), Drogba
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Romeu, McEachran, Kalou
Booked: Terry, Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Meireles
Sent Off: Bosingwa, Drogba