Cole has been sidelined with a cruciate knee problem for eight months but came back and set up Salomon Kalou’s winner just after the interval.
“I’m back now and it’s blinding,” Cole said. “But I’m not going to get ahead of myself. There is going to be a lot of ups and downs. All I can do is keep working hard in training.”
The 27-year-old was named skipper for the evening by boss Carlo Ancelotti and led out an experienced side, with Sam Hutchinson and Fabio Borini the only youngsters. It is a policy Chelsea will continue with in the competition.
“If you see the size of the squad we have, a lot don’t play week-in week-out so it’s vital for them to get airtime,” said assistant boss Ray Wilkins. “It’s entirely up to the young men to push themselves forward.
“We want to win everything we enter. Every side that takes to the field in a Chelsea shirt wants to win the game and the tournament they are playing in. If we can blood a few on the way, all well and good.”
QPR held the Barclays Premier League leaders until the break, with Ancelotti eventually bringing Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and John Terry off the bench to see out the game. Lampard’s introduction at the interval proved to be crucial. “It’s not a bad substitution to make,” Wilkins said. “It’s a testament to QPR that we had to use Frank, Ashley and John.
“QPR equipped themselves very well and gave us a very tough evening. It was nice to see Joe and Paulo (Ferreira) come through the 90 minutes, Yury (Zhirkov) got a good hour and the two youngsters did very well too.”
QPR boss Jim Magilton was pleased with his side’s application. “We have to use it as a springboard,” said Magilton. “We have a chance of promotion, like 14 other clubs.
“We had a lack of belief in the final third but I was immensely proud of the overall performance.”
Magilton, who started with two strikers, added: “I’m not naive but that is the way I thought we could get after Chelsea. We were encouraged against Cardiff in our last game and some players may not get back to Stamford Bridge so I couldn’t deny them that by resting them.”
Magilton refused to answer questions on owner Flavio Briatore, whose position has been questioned following his role in Formula One’s “crashgate” scandal. “I’ve never met him,” Magilton joked.
CHELSEA: Hilario, Ivanovic, Paulo Ferreira, Hutchinson (Terry 77), Belletti, Malouda (Lampard 46), Zhirkov (Ashley Cole 69), Mikel, Joe Cole, Borini, Kalou.
QPR: Heaton, Borrowdale, Stewart, Leigertwood, Gorkss, Routledge, Rowlands (Ephraim 73), Faurlin, Buzsaky, Vine (Taarabt 66), Simpson (Pellicori 73).
Referee: M Jones.