Chelsea beat Liverpool in epic contest to make Champions League semisApril 15th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS
London, April 15 (DPA) Chelsea staved off a valiant Liverpool fightback, drawing 4-4 on the night, and progressing to a Champions League semi-final date against Barcelona by a 7-5 aggregate.
As Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso struck for Liverpool before half-time Tuesday, Chelsea’s 3-1 lead from last week’s first leg was wiped out. Second-half strikes from Didier Drogba, Alex and Frank Lampard put Chelsea 3-2 up on the night.
An incredible tie seemed over at that point, but a deflected Lucas Leiva shot reawakened Liverpool’s hope, and when Dirk Kuyt headed in, there were still seven minutes remaining.
It was Lampard, though, who got the eighth - and final - goal of the night.
“It was a great game of football,” said Lampard. “We made it very hard for ourselves.
“Liverpool are a fantastic team and kept coming back. We didn’t approach the game the right way in the first half, but our character in turning it round was key.”
It was breathless, incomprehensible stuff, and Liverpool did it without captain Steven Gerrard, who was ruled out with a groin injury.
“This game was unbelievable,” said Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez. “I’m really proud for the players and the fans.”
The opener came after 19 minutes, and stemmed from a moment of wonderful imagination.
Liverpool won a free-kick 35 metres from goal on their right and as everybody waited for a cross, Fabio Aurelio scooted a low free-kick in at the near post.
For Chelsea, tentativeness seemed to become panic, and Liverpool’s second came from a similar source.
As another Aurelio free-kick was played in, Branislav Ivanovic hauled down Alonso, who got up to hammer the resultant penalty past Petr Cech and level the scores on aggregate.
Every Liverpool cross seemed to cause panic, and Kuyt almost looped a header over Cech in the final minute of the first half.
“We got a little bit angry at half-time,” said manager Guus Hiddink. “We were going backwards into our own goal.”
Chelsea started the second half uneasily as well, but six minutes in they were given a lifeline.
Nicolas Anelka crossed from the right, Drogba got a touch at the near post and the ball squeezed between Jose Reina and the post.
Drogba put a free-kick centimetres wide four minutes later, and then, in the 57th minute, Alex thrashed a fearsome free-kick past Reina to restore the two-goal aggregate advantage.
The Ivory Coast striker then beat the offside trap before squaring for Lampard to tap in Chelsea’s third.
At that, the game seemed over. But with 81 minutes played Lucas’s shot flicked off Michael Essien, wrongfooting Cech.
And within two minutes Albert Riera had crossed for Kuyt to make it 4-3.
Liverpool had seven minutes to score the goal that would have taken them through on away goals, but with two minutes remaining, Lampard drilled the goal that, at last, proved decisive.
Chelsea will face Barcelona in the semi-final, who drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich to progress 5-1 on aggregate, but Ashley Cole will miss the first leg through suspension.
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Tags: captain steven, cech, didier drogba, epic contest, fabio aurelio, fantastic team, fightback, frank lampard, free kick, game of football, great game, groin injury, hiddink, ivanovic, lucas leiva, rafa benitez, semis, steven gerrard, valiant, xabi alonso