Chelsea 1 QPR 0
Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole returned from his long-term knee injury to help defeat QPR and send the Barclays Premier League leaders into the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
The 27-year-old, named by manager Carlo Ancelotti as skipper for the evening, was playing in his first match since January and set up Salomon Kalou’s winner at Stamford Bridge.
Ahead of the tie, the future of Flavio Briatore as QPR’s owner has been uncertain following his role in Formula One’s “crashgate” scandal – but Jim Magilton’s men could not give him something to smile about despite putting the hosts under pressure at times.
It was Cole’s evening after eight months out with ruptured cruciate knee ligaments, a problem he aggravated in July’s pre-season tour of the United States.
The clock is ticking for Cole – he has to get back into Fabio Capello’s England squad before the World Cup after watching competition increase while out injured.
Cole was playing in the hole and showing no signs of his injury affecting his approach. He matched Wayne Routledge for pace in the early stages and went shoulder to shoulder. Later in the first half he danced around Routledge and Akos Buzsaky before Martin Rowlands brought him down.
When Paulo Ferreira, also returning from a long-term knee problem, crossed from the right 10 minutes before the break, Cole was on the end of it but stabbed wide of Tom Heaton’s goal.