LONDON: Cesc Fabregas fired Chelsea another step closer to the Premier League title as the Spain midfielder's late strike sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win over QPR on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho's side were well below their best in a scrappy West London derby, but the leaders stole a vital three points when Fabregas converted their only shot on target two minutes from full-time at Loftus Road.
The Blues are now seven points clear of second-placed Arsenal and have a game in hand on the chasing pack, meaning four more wins from their remaining seven matches will see them crowned English champions for the first time since 2010.
Defeat was cruel on third-bottom QPR, who remain two points from safety despite matching their more illustrious opponents for long periods, although the missiles thrown at Chelsea players by the home fans after Fabregas's goal will cast a shadow over their performance.
"It is an important step. The best quality was we controlled the game very well," said Mourinho. "When we have one match more to play than the other teams, our situation is good."
Chelsea came close to taking a fortuitous lead in the seventh minute when Willian's miscued cross from wide on the right dipped in front of QPR goalkeeper Robert Green and cannoned off the near post.
Fabregas, wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose against Stoke last weekend, was appropriately attired for such a physical encounter and his team-mate Thibaut Courtois was soon nursing a bruise as well when Charlie Austin left the Chelsea goalkeeper writhing on the turf after a full-blooded challenge.
In-form Coutinho gunning for Newcastle
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that Philippe Coutinho's "outstanding" recent performances mean he is rightly being considered as a candidate for the Premier League's end-of-season prizes.
Coutinho, 22, is enjoying his best season since joining Liverpool from Inter Milan in 2012 and scored the winning goal against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday to earn his side a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.
"He's a young player that's come into the country and adapted incredibly well to the style of football in the Premier League," said Rodgers. "He's very strong in his mind, he's got an incredible technique, he's up there with the world's best in terms of his technique. And still his best years are ahead of him.”
After keeping their eyes on the prize in the FA Cup, Liverpool resume their fading pursuit of a place in the Premier League's top four on Monday when they welcome Newcastle United to Anfield.
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