John Terry’s return from a racism ban ended prematurely in pain as the Chelsea captain was carried off injured after scoring in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool in English Premier League soccer on Sunday.
The veteran defender headed in his 50th Chelsea goal from Juan Mata’s corner in the 20th minute after missing the last four domestic matches for racially abusing an opponent.
But 15 minutes later, Terry fell awkwardly after a collision with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, was carried off on a stretcher and later left the ground on crutches with a brace on his right knee.
“He’s in pain now. He’ll go to hospital for a scan,” Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. “We hope it’s not a serious injury, but we’ll see.
“He started the game very well, showing the qualities he has, and the experience and influence. It’s a real shame he had to come off.”
Without Terry, Suarez was left unmarked in the penalty area to head in an equaliser in the 73rd minute.
The draw leaves Chelsea third on the Premiership table, three points behind leader Manchester United.
“We’re in much better shape than in previous years, in a much better position, and very close to our best,” Di Matteo said.
Liverpool, though, are languishing in 13th place, looking nowhere near producing their first title since 1990.
“That was our sixth draw, and in a lot of those games we’ve come back from being behind,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “We’ve got great character and resilience and survival instincts in the group, and we’re dominating games with the ball, but you need materials.
“If we can hopefully get one or two in January who can help us at the top end of the field we’ll turn draws into wins. Luis [Suarez] just needs that support of instinctive goal-scorers.”
Both scorers were at the centre of English football’s high-profile struggle with racism following incidents last October.
Suarez served an eight-match ban for racially abusing an opponent, while Terry’s delayed case meant his suspension for hurling an insult at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand has only just been served.
Di Matteo immediately restored Terry to a league starting line-up, even though he was dropped to the bench in the Champions League last Wednesday.
With David Luiz out with tonsillitis, Terry partnered Branislav Ivanovic on defence – but it was Liverpool’s back four under pressure at the start.
In a sign of Liverpool’s shakiness in defending, Joe Allen gave the ball away too cheaply in the centre to Hazard. Oscar was released by the Belgium winger but wasted the chance by striking over.
The opener, though, came after Juan Mata delivered a corner from the right flank and Terry evaded Daniel Agger to dart toward the far post and direct a powerful header into the roof of the net.
Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones prevented Chelsea from extending their lead by first blocking a shot from former striker Fernando Torres and then Hazard sliced the rebound wide.
As Liverpool searched for the equaliser, Suarez was advancing on the Chelsea goal when he was shoved by Ramires and then fell on top of Terry after they collided.
Terry fell to the turf clutching his right leg. After almost four minutes of treatment, he left the pitch on a stretcher with his arms folded rounded his head and in obvious pain.
“Hugs to Terry,” Suarez wrote later on Facebook. “I hope it’s nothing serious.”
In the injury time added at the end of the first half, Mata blasted over after more poor Liverpool defending allowed him to race down the pitch unchallenged.
It was a poor finish that reflected a first half lacking in incidents.
We were a wee bit tentative in the first half, and that was my fault,” Rodgers said. “We normally play with three front players to press the ball much higher up the field. We played 3-5-2 in the first half just to see if we could get Luis a bit of support up front and still have the superiority in midfield with three midfield players.
“With the two front players we just couldn’t get our distances right. We just couldn’t quite press.”
Chelsea initially looked more dangerous after the break, with Mata shooting wide and then whipping in a free kick that Torres met with a header that was saved by Jones’ knee.
Jones was also alert to push away another free kick from Mata before Chelsea was made to pay for its misses.
Jamie Carragher was able to cleverly head Gerrard’s corner onto the far post where the unmarked Suarez nodded the ball into the net.
It could have been even worse for Chelsea had goalkeeper Petr Cech not kept out Jose Enrique’s low shot in stoppage time.