Early Doors

To the villains go the spoils

Early Doors

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Two thoroughly lovable characters - John Terry and Luis Suarez

It was said to be an inevitability that one — or both — of John Terry and Luis Suarez would steal the headlines after Sunday's clash between Chelsea and Liverpool, and so it proved.

The phrase "It just had to be him!" was spoken in the gantry following both goals as the two players — reviled as more than simply pantomime villains — infuriated the opposing sets of supporters by doing their 'talking on the pitch'. This talking could not be considered remotely controversial.

Indeed, when the pair were not contributing to the scoreline, they were making other headlines by colliding into each other, with one such incident ending Terry's afternoon — a knee injury not for the squeamish.

One moment he was celebrating his return with a goal, blowing kisses to the Chelsea fans who laud him as "captain, leader, legend" — and the next he was writhing around on the turf with his season potentially thrown into doubt.

Terry, on his return from a four-match suspension for the racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand, went down in the kind of distress that you rarely see from a man who — apparently, along with Suarez — attended the School of Hard Knocks.

The joint-crunching injury, which saw the knee buckle in excruciating fashion, was as painful to witness as the "well, if John Terry is going off on a stretcher then you know it is serious!" line from Martin Tyler was predictable.

Terry will now have an MRI scan which Ashley Cole will oversee as chief witness but, given that Roberto Di Matteo helpfully and insightfully revealed after the match that "He has a problem with the knee", there is surely little else to discover.

The defender did not go to hospital after insisting that a 30-minute treatment of magic sponge and WD-40 was all that was required. Di Matteo, it seems, agreed.

Furthermore, he also stubbornly completed his traditional one-man warm-down. A pair of crutches and a leg brace did not prevent the Chelsea defender emerging from the tunnel to hobble across the pitch in gallant, but painstaking, fashion.

Terry missed three Premier League matches and a League Cup tie against Manchester United after the FA found him guilty abusing Ferdinand, but he could now be set for another stint of tracksuit modelling on the touchline.

England will not be left to sweat on the fitness of their former skipper, of course, but there is cause for concern over the current incumbent, Steven Gerrard, who 'opened up' his medial knee ligaments. He will be a doubt for what would be his 100th cap, but the Chelsea fans did at least show respect for the Liverpool captain with "one England captain, there's only one England captain" chants.

Suarez, meanwhile — who was suspended last season for eight matches for racially insulting Patrice Evra of Manchester United — also scored an unchallenged header from a corner to earn Liverpool a draw, before it was revealed in stark fashion that he really is set apart from his team-mates.

The Uruguayan celebrated his equaliser alone in front of the travelling Liverpool support, while his team-mates elected to head back into their own half, and the image was all the more striking given how he has almost single-handedly hauled his side to 13th place in the Premier League table.

The draw gives Brendan Rodgers 12 points from his first 11 games, a pitiful tally that even he could not describe as "Okay". The Reds boss will not want reminding that Roy Hodgson had 15 points at this stage of the 2010-11 season with his 11th game in charge yielding three points against Chelsea.

Suarez must be perfectly used by now to feeling all alone in the final third of the field, and it says something that he has scored in each of his last four games for Liverpool — 11 in all this season — despite the fact that his club have won just one of the nine matches in which he has found the back of the net.

Rodgers has made it patently clear — "okay?!" — that he would not swap his feisty and misunderstood striker for anyone else and, given his side's quite staggering over-reliance on him, it really is little surprise.

Suarez has now plundered 32 goals from 68 games for Liverpool. To put that in context, another striker, like, say, Fernando Torres, has managed just 18 goals from 84 appearances for Chelsea.

It is now five games without a goal against his former club for the floppy-haired Spaniard who, if it were not for his trusty Alice band and sad-puppy expressions, would continue to look entirely out of sorts.

But the match was all about Messrs Terry and Suarez, of course, and there was something almost reassuringly predictable about the names dominating the post-match reaction.

Yet again neither left Stamford Bridge without their usual hefty dollop of attention — and they would surely not have had it any other way.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Maybe England have to look at the structure of its coaching staff. Which brings me to Gary Neville. I can't believe that any of the top countries would employ a television pundit as a part-time coach. Spain have been the most successful side in the world for the past few years. Is their assistant manager a TV pundit? The short answer is no." What's the long answer? Yes, Carlos Tevez has — unbelievably —secured himself a newspaper column; and yes, he has already used it to have a pop at his least favourite former right-back.

FACEBOOK POST OF THE DAY: Ashley Cole's mum Sue let slip her son's future club on Facebook, posting: "Well looks like his (sic) going somwhere (sic) better hear (sic) than the talk of man u (sic). Not too far on the Euro star x".

FOREIGN VIEW: So it turns out that Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer is a very good manager after all. His Molde side have been crowned champions of Norway with a game to spare, and the former Manchester United striker was almost annoyingly calm and reasonable in reflecting upon such a magnificent achievement. "Now we've shown that it can be won two years in a row - without being called Rosenborg. I'm lucky to have very good players, and we always had faith that we'd succeed. Now we'll just have to keep going. If we lose players, we'll just have to reinforce." He really would have been far too sensible and successful for the Venky's.

COMING UP: There is the crunch FA Cup (with the King of Beers, apparently) first-round replay between AFC Wimbledon and York from 19.45 at the snappily-named The Cherry Red Records Fans' Stadium. Should they win and MK Dons beat Cambridge City on Wednesday, the team regarded by many as the 1988 FA Cup winners will go up against the club that adopted their franchise back in 2003.

We will proudly bring you the latest column from Jan Molby - who may or may not choose to gloat about his sage Torres predictions - as well as the European and Premier League Teams of the Week. Oh, and our expert blogger will be giving you the latest from the wacky world of French football. Have a good day.

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