x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

No great shakes as John Terry and Anton Ferdinand avoid flash point

Pre-match handshakes are cancelled to avoid confrontation with the main incident on the pitch as Sturridge tumble earns game-winning penalty.

Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, front, is brought down in the penalty area after being fouled by QPR's Clint Hill, resulting in the match-winning penalty.
Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, front, is brought down in the penalty area after being fouled by QPR's Clint Hill, resulting in the match-winning penalty.

Queens Park Rangers 0 // Chelsea 1

In the end, there was no handshake. No set-piece moment where Anton Ferdinand was forced to acknowledge or shun the man who will appear in court to plead innocent to a charge that he racially insulted the Queens Park Rangers defender when last they met.

At the request of both clubs, the English Football Association dispensed with the now customary "fair-play handshake" ahead of this cup match. It was a decision to stay John Terry's embarrassment and bypass Ferdinand's intention to resist pressure on him to do what some considered the gentlemanly thing.

"Extremely important," the Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas said of the handshake ahead of the tie.

"This game is based on good values more than anything else. These players should continue to promote these good values."

That flew in the face of Terry's inability to promote good values in October's Premier League meeting. Even if the racist expletives he mouthed in that game were used only in a denial that he had said them, as the England captain has claimed, his words were unnecessary.

Mark Hughes, the QPR manager, hinted after the game that more than one of his players were considering snubbing Terry if the handshake had gone ahead, adding that "the situation in the end was to take it out of the equation and not to have the issue".

Pressing Ferdinand to shake hands with Terry ahead of a court case that will decide if Chelsea's captain is guilty of a racially aggravated public-order offence that threatens his entire career was like asking Wayne Bridge to ignore Terry's infidelity with the mother of his child two years before. Once an extremely close friend, Bridge also did not fancy it.

There were other parallels to 2010. As at Stamford Bridge, large elements of the Chelsea support felt it appropriate to boo the victim, whether Ferdinand proves to be an intentional one or not.

As with the last time, an opposing support had their own ideas about the true villain of the piece. "John Terry, we know what you did" was the chant from much of Loftus Road.

Terry's attempt to prove his innocence will not be an easy one. It is believed that his club has not assisted with his legal costs.

Reports last week that Terry will be supported by witness statements from Carlo Ancelotti and Marcel Desailly, respected former manager and teammate, did not mention that some current colleagues have refused to sign the glowing character references his lawyers presented them with.

At least Saturday's game proved a relatively straightforward affair for Terry. QPR were as organised and disciplined as you would expect a Mark Hughes side to be yet created precious little in front of goal. Their one clear chance arrived in the final minute of injury time after Terry was out-manoeuvred by Jamie Mackie, and Luke Young almost found the bottom corner.

With far greater control than they have shown in recent outings, Chelsea dominated possession but still required a questionable penalty to make the fifth round. Daniel Sturridge collapsed following the lightest of collisions with Clint Hill and as the defender berated him for play-acting, Mike Dean awarded a spot kick.

Juan Mata converted calmly to keep Chelsea in one of the two competitions Villas-Boas still has a chance to win and prove his qualities as a manager. A trial of his captain's qualities as a man awaits Terry.

sports@thenational.ae