For a team game football produces a plethora of individual rivalries. They were everywhere at Stamford Bridge yesterday. In the dug-out, on the pitch, even in the same dressing room. We would not wish it any other way. Mano-a-mano encounters are the lifeblood of sport, be it Warne v Pietersen or Wilkinson v Hodgson.
The most high-profile of yesterday's head-to-heads was between the managers. Not since England's cricketers went to Zimbabwe in 2003 and recoiled at the prospect of Nasser Hussain having to touch flesh with Robert Mugabe has the issue of sporting handshakes received such prominence. Thus the cameras were trained on Jose Mourinho as he stood at the top of the tunnel in the moments before kick-off with the self-conscious air of a man waiting for a blind date. Would his partner turn up, and how would he respond?
Then Rafael Benitez tramped up the tunnel. As the motor-drives whirred each man extended an arm, exchanged a half-smile, and turned quickly towards their own encampments. Ninety minutes of intensely competitive football later the pair again touched palms, Benitez concealing his disappointment and anger as he sought out Mourinho.
"We do not have time to be close friends. We are in two different sides fighting for the same objectives, but I admire his qualities as a coach," said Mourinho.
Benitez responded: "We did not have personal problems. It was a question of education, to shake hands and give to the people this message." Quite who needed educating was unclear. This feud may not be completely over.
Another pair of rivalries had been simmering in the Chelsea ranks. Mourinho celebrated his team's "spirit" but questions remain about their internal harmony. Arjen Robben's confession in the match programme that he had not socialised with a fellow footballer since last season - and then it was Charlton's Dennis Rommedahl - rather undermined the image of the happy Blues playing computer games every night at John Terry's house.
But if they do, who has first go at the controls when JT is choosing between Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack? Or Didier Drogba and Andrei Shevchenko? So far his manager has picked Ballack in midfield and fudged the question up front. Yesterday was a good one for the old guard as one new recruit was dismissed, the other withdrawn. The latter was a brave, but correct decision by Mourinho. When Ballack's departure reduced Chelsea to 10 men he switched to 4-4-1. Drogba made his name as a lone striker with Marseilles and played that way for most of his first season at Chelsea. So Shevchenko went to right-midfield. The Ukrainian is struggling to settle in attack - on the flank he was lost. So Mourinho made the call, No 7 went up on the substitutes' board, and one wondered if the phone would ring in the dug-out : "It's Mr Abramovich for you, boss."
"I want more from Shev. He wants more for himself, but he is happy, the team won and he did his contribution. He will get better," said Mourinho. Few doubt that but the early signs suggest Shevchenko has lost a yard - too often he would get in a position to break, or shoot, only to be halted by a Liverpool tackle. On the plus side Drogba has risen to the challenge. His goal was a thing of beauty.
Lampard has found it harder to respond to Ballack's arrival as the German has seized his position. But after Ballack's red card Lampard grew in stature even, in the 84th-minute, making a run into the box. It was almost the old Frank. He now has three matches to prove to Mourinho that Ballack should sit, just as he did so well for Germany in the summer.
In normal circumstances the head-to-head which would have dominated the day was Lampard v Gerrard. But with Gerrard wide left the pair rarely met. When they did Gerrard, who made such a meal of "The Cannibal" that Mourinho was forced to replace Khalid Boulahrouz, should have had a penalty when Lampard pushed him. Mike Riley disagreed. The England men will have to settle for arguing over whose autobiography sold the best. Those rivalries - you can't even escape them in Waterstones.Reuse content