LONDON: Chelsea appeared to be winners off the pitch as they were shock losers on it.
Just as they closed in on the signing of Newcastle striker Demba Ba so Rafa Benitez’s men saw their four-match winning run in the Premier League halted at home by struggling west London rivals Queens Park Rangers.
Harry Redknapp’s relegation-threatened outfit won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, their first victory there for two decades.
Chelsea old boy Shaun Wright-Phillips, an early substitute for the injured Junior Hoilett, struck a brilliant 78th-minute winner as QPR made dramatic amends for last weekend’s home defeat by Liverpool.
Victory ended a three-match losing run and provided Redknapp with a second win since he took over as manager last month. Even so, they remain bottom of the table on goal difference.
Off the pitch, Chelsea were cleared by Newcastle to talk to 27-year-old Senegal international Ba after meeting the £7m release clause stipulated in the deal he signed with Newcastle in 2011.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said: “It’s done. He will go to Chelsea with our blessing. He has done fantastic for us and it’s not a bad thing, all the uncertainty is now done and we can move on. This club is bigger than any player for sure.”
Newcastle have tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate Ba’s contract in recent months to prevent a repeat of the speculation which surrounded him during the summer.
Ba scored 16 goals last season for Newcastle and took his tally for the current campaign to 13 with a double in the 7-3 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.
Newcastle, without Ba because of his transfer talks, lost 2-1 at home to Everton and slipped deeper into trouble. Victor Anichebe came on as substitute and scored only two minutes later as the Toffees hit back to condemn Newcastle to a ninth defeat in 11 league games.
Papiss Cisse had headed the Magpies in front after only 72 seconds but Leighton Baines levelled with a superb free kick. Everton thus moved within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who have a game in hand.
Luis Suarez scored two more goals as Liverpool beat Sunderland 3-0 at Anfield. With new team-mate Daniel Sturridge in the stands, the Uruguayan took his tally to 15 in 19 league matches. The last Reds player to reach that total was Fernando Torres in 2009-10, scoring 18 a year after they almost won the title.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a well-taken lob over goalkeeper Simon Mignolet as Liverpool began the new year with a home victory after recording just six in the league in the whole of 2012.