Chelsea old boy Shaun Wright-Phillips stunned his former club with a 78th-minute winner as bottom side Queens Park Rangers (QPR) shocked the European champions 1-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old drove home from the edge of the box at Stamford Bridge to move Harry Redknapp’s side to within five points of safety and prevent Chelsea from reclaiming third place in the standings from Tottenham Hotspur.
“They worked their socks off and they got their rewards. We deserved it and it was a fantastic performance,” QPR manager Redknapp said. “They have set the standard tonight and to get out of this mess, they have to do it every week.”
Interim coach Rafael Benitez made five changes to his starting lineup, with Ashley Cole, Ramires, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the injured Petr Cech dropping out, and the changes were to prove costly.
German winger Marko Marin made his first league start for Chelsea, but his only contribution of note was an ugly fourth-minute challenge on Stephane Mbia, for which he was lucky to escape with only a caution.
Marin did tee up Victor Moses to shoot wide from close range early in the second half, while Julio Cesar saved brilliantly from Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard had a goal ruled out for offside, but Chelsea were below-par.
Punishment arrived with 12 minutes to play, when Adel Taarabt teed up Wright-Phillips to find the bottom-left corner from 20m and bring Chelsea’s four-game winning run to a juddering halt.
Meanwhile, Everton bolstered their bid for Champions League soccer by coming from behind to win 2-1 at Newcastle.
Papiss Cisse did his best to prove there is life after his Senegal teammate Ba, by heading Newcastle into a second-minute lead after goalkeeper Tim Krul’s long kick was allowed to bounce on the edge of the visitors’ box.
However, Leighton Baines produced a goal-of-the-season contender to equalize, rippling the net with a magnificent 30m free-kick that left Krul grasping at thin air.
Substitute Victor Anichebe completed the comeback on the hour, tapping in Nikica Jelavic’s low cross barely 90 seconds after coming on to send Everton up to fifth.
Liverpool reinvigorated their push for European soccer by sweeping Sunderland aside 3-0 at Anfield to climb two places to eighth.
Teenage winger Raheem Sterling opened the scoring in the 19th minute, galloping onto a pass from Luis Suarez and calmly lobbing the advancing Simon Mignolet.
Suarez added a second in the 26th minute, shrugging off Carlos Cuellar before beating Mignolet at his near post, and he made it 3-0 from Steven Gerrard’s pass seven minutes into the second half.
Suarez’s brace took his tally of league goals to 15, while Liverpool are now only seven points beneath the Champions League places, although fourth-place Chelsea have a game in hand.