There was no handshake, and precious little football either, at Loftus Road yesterday as a promising FA Cup tie was suffocated by the controversy surrounding it. So determined were both teams to avoidfurther inflaming the tension provoked by John Terry's alleged use of racist language towards Anton Ferdinand in their last meeting that QPR even accepted with only moderate anger the highly dubious penalty award which settled the match in Chelsea's favour.
The spot-kick, converted by Juan Mata on the hour, was given after Daniel Sturridge fell dramatically to the floor after Clint Hill made mild contact with his back. QPR, who beat Chelsea here in thrilling circumstances in October, never looked like levelling and can now return to their relegation battle. For Chelsea, the next items on the agenda are a Premier League match at Swansea on Tuesday, and an appearance at west London magistrates' court for Terry on Wednesday, where he will be formally charged.
If Terry is being affected by the affair it is not showing on the pitch. Yesterday he produced an assured performance, albeit rarely put under pressure by a QPR side overly focused on defence. Ferdinand, whose performances after the incidents faltered, also played well, which was all the more creditable given he was sent a bullet in the post last week.
"I thought Anton conducted himself really, really well, not only this week but for a number of weeks," said Mark Hughes, the QPR manager. "It was important he faced what he had to face, and I'm pleased for him. He was right to be concerned by the content of the letter. I read it and it wasn't particularly nice."
Andre Villas-Boas was equally complimentary about Terry, who was abused throughout by the home support. The Chelsea manager said: "He had an excellent performance, very, very focused. Off-field events were out of his mind and he concentrated on events on the pitch."
Only once did the verbal taunts threaten to spill over into something more sinister, a fan throwing the match ball into Ashley Cole's back as Chelsea prepared to take a throw-in. The refer-ee, Mike Dean, intervened, asking the nearest steward to speak to the man involved. There were no arrests, then or elsewhere in the ground, for which both clubs and the FA will be grateful.
It may have helped that there was not much to get excited about for the game was dire, especially in a lifeless first half. QPR, despite the small capacity of Loftus Road, failed to sell out this west London derby, and the fans who stayed away made the right decision. Hughes has made great play of the fact he has given his new team greater organisation and yesterday he praised his players' work-rate and defensive discipline.
Yet QPR have lost the attacking intent they had under Neil Warnock and only twice exercised Petr Cech. Once was in the seventh minute of injury time, when he parried Luke Young's shot, the other, after 59 minutes, led indirectly to Chelsea's goal.
Shaun Wright-Phillips beat Cole on the right and fired in a rasping shot, which Cech parried perilously close to Tommy Smith. It fell instead to Ramires, who run deep into QPR territory. The move broke down but was resuscitated, and Mata crossed towards Sturridge. Hill nudged the striker in the back and he tumbled to the deck with enthusiasm.
"It was very harsh," said Hughes. "Mike Dean will be disappointed when he sees the decision he's given. He told Paddy Kenny he had to give it as [Sturridge] was going to head the ball, but that was not my view." Chelsea lost to a similar, if more obvious, penalty in October and Villas-Boas said: "We were treated unfairly then, maybe QPR were treated unfairly [today]."
Chelsea fielded a full-strength team and Villas-Boas confirmed afterwards that, with the Premier League title looking out of reach, he was aiming to win the FA Cup. His team produced, as he said, "a good solid display" but lacked panache. Fernando Torres looked to have regressed, Mata only occasionally influenced play and Sturridge continually turned inside, on to his favoured foot but into trouble.
Worryingly, Ramires, who did provide energy, departed on a stretcher late on. The QPR fans suspended hostilities and clapped him off. He was diagnosed with medial ligament damage, but Chelsea hope the Brazilian will be back within a month.
There was one effort on goal in the opening half and that followed a mistake, Mata testing Kenny with a fierce shot. The second half offered little more, with Chelsea largely happy to knock the ball around the back four and QPR, even after falling behind, usually prepared to let them.
With Heidar Helguson suffering a muscle injury, Joey Barton quiet and Akos Buzsaky finding the game rather harder than he had against Wigan last week, QPR lacked firepower.
Hughes will doubtless renew his efforts to add to his squad in the closing days of the transfer window. "The disappointment was that we were unable to build on our defensive platform and attack," he said.
QPR (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Hall, Ferdinand, Hill; Mackie, Buzsaky (Hulse, 80), Barton, Wright-Phillips; Smith, Helguson (Macheda, h/t).
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires (Romeu, 79), Meireles, Malouda; Sturridge, Torres, Mata (Essien, 90).
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the match: Ramires (Chelsea)
Match rating: 3/10
Queens Park Rangers 0 Chelsea 1 (Mata, pen)
Spotlight on John Terry
So what happened to the handshake?
There was no formal handshake between the teams after QPR's players said they would refuse to shake hands with John Terry as a gesture of solidarity with AntonFerdinand. Terry did, however, shake the hand of Joey Barton the QPR captain at the coin toss, and those of the match officials. After the game, Barton (pictured) was again the only QPR player whose hand he shook.
How did the fans greet his first touch?
He was booed throughout by QPR fans, but as the match wore on the venom in the booing dropped. There was also a series of chants directed at Terry and his family, some too unsavoury to print. They included: 'John Terry, we know what you said'. The Chelsea fans cheered him.
Did he have any arguments with anybody on the pitch?
None whatsoever. The game was surprisingly bereft of confrontations between players.
How did he play?
Very well. If not quite flawless, Terry won the majority of his headers, tracked his man, won most of his tackles, generally distributed the ball well and made no serious errors.
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