Chelsea beat Liverpool to reach first Champions League final

May 1st, 2008 - 12:32 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 1 (DPA) Chelsea will play Manchester United in the final of the Champions League after they beat Liverpool 3-2 after extra time in a thrilling semi-final of the second leg. The 4-3 aggregate victory Wednesday night for Chelsea erased memories of their defeat by Liverpool at the same stage in 2005 and 2007 and secured their place in the final of Europe’s Premier club competition for the first time in their history.

The match at Stamford Bridge was level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, making it 2-2 on aggregate, but a penalty from Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba’s second goal of the night put Chelsea 3-1 up and Ryan Babel’s long-range effort proved too little too late to stop Chelsea.

Chelsea will take on United in Moscow May 21 in the first all-English final in the competition’s history.

Chelsea captain John Terry described the win as “fantastic”.

“I think it’s fully deserved over the years,” he said. “We made it difficult for ourselves tonight. I’m delighted for myself, the club, the fans.”

He paid a tribute to Lampard, playing a week after the death of his mother - all the Chelsea team wore armbands in respect. “Frank is a fantastic character. It’s been a terrible week for him. I’m sure Frank will dedicate that goal to his mum.”

Ivory Coast international Drogba said that he was delighted with the victory. “This is very important for the club, some of the players have been trying this for five years. I am just glad we managed to do this for the fans. I am just happy for my team.”

Chelsea’s players and fans went wild at the final whistle while Liverpool were left to reflect on what might have been, with manager Rafael Benitez singling out the first goal in extra time as the key moment.

“I thought we were very close,” he said. “We played well in the second half. But the third goal killed it.

“We had control of the game, we had two chances in extra-time and we were in control. And we were preventing them from creating.”

What had been expected to be a dull, tight affair was a pulsating, enthralling battle as Liverpool dominated possession but Chelsea proved lethal on the counter-attack.

In driving rain, Chelsea took the lead on 34 minutes when Salomon Kalou, ruled on-side when Liverpool thought he was off, ran on to a Lampard pass, and cut inside the defence to shoot.

His effort was parried by Jose Reina, but the ball ran to Drogba, who slammed the ball past Reina at the near post to put the home side ahead.

Michael Ballack hit the stanchion behind the goal with a free kick but the lead remained at one at half-time.

Chelsea seemed happy to sit on their lead and they were almost made to pay when Dirk Kuyt flicked a shot with the outside of his foot after a header across goal from Steven Gerrard, but Petr Cech, who had denied Fernando Torres in the first half, stuck out a foot to save.

At the other end, Lampard volleyed straight at Reina, while the goalkeeper gathered easily after a long shot by Joe Cole.

And Liverpool then levelled on the night and on aggregate on 64 minutes.

Yossi Benayoun, preferred in the starting XI to Babel, wriggled away from the defence and ran across the outside of the area, before slipping the ball to Torres, who took one touch and then put the ball past Cech.

Michael Essien hit the side-netting after a mazy run but both sides had to settle for extra time.

Sami Hyypia headed agonizingly wide for Liverpool two minutes into the first period and Essien thought he had put Chelsea ahead three minutes later. But his goal was ruled out because four Chelsea players were ruled offside and interfering in play.

Three minutes after that, though, Chelsea were ahead and it took a mistake by Hyypia, as he miscontrolled the ball on the edge of the area and in trying to recover the ball, tripped Michael Ballack.

Lampard sent Reina the wrong way, prompting emotional scenes as his team-mates congratulated him and his father, Frank Sr, the former West Ham midfielder, applauded in the crowd.

Lampard raised his arms toward the sky and kissed the black armband he was wearing before falling to the ground and holding his hand in front of his eyes.

With an exhausted Torres now on the Liverpool bench, Drogba made it 3-1 after substitute Nicolas Anelka, again suspiciously offside, pulled the ball back for him to slam the ball home.

The drama still wasn’t over as Cech allowed a long shot by Babel to squirm through his hands with just a couple of minutes remaining, but Chelsea hung on to gain revenge for their defeats by Liverpool at the same stage in 2005 and 2007.

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