In other news, Queens Park Rangers held Chelsea to a scoreless draw. So consumed had everybody become over the Anton Ferdinand-John Terry confrontation, with the pre-match non‑handshaking subplot, that it had been easy to forget that there were three vital derby points at stake.
The one apiece was not bad for either side, even if the two dropped represented Chelsea's first blemish of the Premier League season. Both teams departed with regrets, with QPR's centring upon the two clear chances that they spurned in the second half. Park Ji-sung fluffed a gloriously free header while Bobby Zamora seized upon a loose Mikel John Obi back-pass to round Petr Cech only not to shoot. He finally unloaded after checking inside but the opportunity had passed. Chelsea were the better team in the first half and they might have snatched victory in the closing moments only for Eden Hazard to blaze over the crossbar from the substitute Victor Moses's low cross. Roberto Di Matteo lamented his side's lack of cutting edge for the first time this season. All of the passion, all of the huff and puff, came to nothing.
In the week that saw the publication of the Hillsborough report, the focus on whether two grown men would deign to acknowledge each other before a football match was pitiful. Handshakes, together with captains armbands, have become the great trivial obsessions of English football. The tension, though, was palpable when the QPR players began the staged pre-match walk past their Chelsea counterparts. Park was first up; he did not shake Terry's hand and, moments later, he did not do so again at the captain's coin toss.
As expected, Ferdinand ignored Terry and then Ashley Cole, who had given evidence on Terry's behalf at the magistrates court trial in July, when the Chelsea captain stood accused of racially insulting Ferdinand. Terry loitered in front of Ferdinand during the handshakes and he seemed to say something to him while Cole glanced over his shoulder after his confrontation with Ferdinand. José Bosingwa and Bobby Zamora embraced Terry. And that was that.
It was a spiky afternoon that featured the traditional derby ingredients: no-holds barred tackles, controversial decisions and caustic chanting from the stands. Terry's every involvement was jeered but, as usual, he pushed out his chest and looked unruffled. Cole heard plenty of abuse; Ferdinand got some from the travelling support. Each player emerged with credit for his performance.
The first half contained three loud penalty shouts and each one might have been given. David Luiz lunged recklessly at Fábio da Silva while Chelsea felt that Ryan Nelsen's man-handling of Terry and Shaun Wright-Phillips's dig at Hazard merited censure. Hazard's tumble was slightly theatrical.
Chelsea had the first-half chances. Hazard, after a incisive break featuring Fernando Torres and Ramires, drew a smart save out of Júlio César, the debutant QPR goalkeeper, whose inclusion relegated Rob Green, the Bosman summer signing, to the bench. Torres burst through, jinked and forced César to save while David Luiz was wasteful with a free header from a corner.
QPR only had a Zamora snap-shot in the first half but they were more fluent and purposeful after the interval. Esteban Granero oozed quality and it was from his floated pass in the 56th minute that Park ought to have scored. His free header, eight yards out, however, was straight at Petr Cech. Terry and Ferdinand suffered injury scares, the latter's looking the more serious. Ferdinand pulled up in the 89th minute and, after treatment, he returned with a strapping around his right thigh. Of greater concern to QPR, though, were the hamstring and knee injuries that forced off Da Silva and Andy Johnson.
Terry felt his right knee in the 72nd minute but, after performing a few stretches, he was able to continue. The home crowd's glee was diluted and they contended themselves with telling Terry that his "family is scum".
Torres strode straight off down the tunnel when he was substituted while the misses from Zamora and Hazard advertised the stalemate. Moses also drew a save from the excellent César. The mercy was that handshakes will now be off the agenda.