Late Riise gaffe gives Chelsea edge

April 23rd, 2008 - 12:10 pm ICT by admin  

(Champions League Roundup)
Liverpool, April 23 (DPA) John Arne Riise scored an injury-time own-goal to give Chelsea a slight edge as they drew 1-1 with Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Dirk Kuyt had put Liverpool ahead two minutes before half-time Tuesday, and Liverpool then did enough to have won the game more comfortably, only for Riise, in the fifth minute of added time to head a Salomon Kalou cross into his own net.

With the away goal, Chelsea would regard themselves as slight favourites going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge next week.

“We have been unlucky in the last two semi-finals. Then we had chances and didn’t take them,” said Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

“This time we had the luck. We played until last second and kept pushing. It’s not over yet but hopefully we can do it at home.”

Until then it had look like Liverpool would, as they have twice before against Chelsea in Champions League semi-finals, win 1-0 at Anfield.

“At the end we must be really disappointed. We had better chances,” said Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.

“They were a good team and were strong, but we had more chances. But you need to score.”

Kuyt has made a habit of scoring crucial goals in Europe — he was on target against both Inter Milan and Arsenal — and it looked for a long time as though he had got another one.

His goal, like much of his play, was effective rather than attractive.

Credit should go to Xabi Alonso for his brightness in pinging a quick free-kick to find Kuyt wide on the right, but much happened between that and the ball crossing the line.

John Terry headed clear Kuyt’s cross, but then Frank Lampard allowed himself to be caught in possession.

Javier Mascherano attempted a shot, but mishit it so badly that the ball looped into the box, where Kuyt got behind Claude Makelele and drilled a finish under Cech.

The game, cagey until then - a Fernando Torres effort, beaten away by Cech was just about the only chance of note - suddenly opened up.

Ryan Babel was particularly impressive, raiding at pace on the left, and he flashed a volley just wide from 25 yards.

Chelsea improved after the arrival of Kalou for Joe Cole midway through the half, although that may have been more down to the groin injury suffered by Fabio Aurelio a couple of minutes earlier.

Florent Malouda dallied over a clear chance created by Lampard, eventually being denied by a sliding challenge from Martin Srktel.

It then took a superb last-ditch challenge from Jamie Carragher to nick the ball from Lampard’s toe in his shooting stride.

Cech then made two excellent saves in the dying minutes, the first a tip-over from a Gerrard volley; the second a parry as a corner found Torres at the back post.

“He was fantastic. For us, he’s the best keeper in the world,” said Lampard of the goalkeeper.

“He’s the unluckiest man in world with injuries but he keeps coming back.”

They seemed important at the time, but were cast in an even brighter light as Kalou’s cross scudded across the box and Riise, under pressure from Nicolas Anelka attempted a stooping clearance, but sent the ball flashing into the top corner.

Liverpool’s co-owner Tom Hicks ignored police advice to take his seat in the directors’ box - where he sat two rows in front of George Gillett, the other co-owner with whom he has suffered a cataclysmic falling out - but there were no audible protests from the stands against either.

Barcelona and Manchester United meet in the second semi-final Wednesday.

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