After The Match 


Liverpool-Chelsea 1-3 (1-1)          8.4.09                            CL
Goals: Torres (6)         Ivanovic (39, 62), Drogba (67)
Team: Reina, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Alonso, Lucas, Riera, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Riera 67), Dossena (Aurelio 75), Babel (Lucas 79)
Not used: Cavalieri, Ngog, Hyypia, Agger
Yellow: Aurelio (74)              Kalou (31), Terry (61)
Red: None
Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (DEN)
Attendance: 42.543


Shots on target: 4-9
Shots off target: 7-5
Blocked shots: 3-7
Fouls conceded: 11-14
Corners: 7-9
Offsides: 1-2
Possession: 58.7-41.3
Yellow: 1-2

HEADLINES "I wasn't surprised because Chelsea are
a strong team."

Rafael Benitez
0904: Dutch of class in harsh
          Euro lesson for Liverpool

0904: It’s miracle time again
0904: Spaniard seeks Istanbul inspiration
0904: Reina retains Reds faith
0804: Benitez rues defensive mistakes
0804: Hiddink still wary of Reds 
0804: Blues stopper hails 'great result'
0804: Ivan the Terrible for bloodied Reds  

Dutch of class in harsh
Euro lesson for Liverpool

Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

It's a scenario Anfield has witnessed rarely.

But sometimes, just sometimes – a team comes to the home of the unlikely European comeback and dominates so utterly, so comprehensively – you can do little more than hold your hands up and accept it.

Johann Cruyff’s Ajax did it in 1966, a crack Red Star Belgrade followed suit a decade later, while the Valencia side managed by a promising young Spanish boss called Benitez were the last team to look so crushingly composed in the Anfield cauldron.

But if those sides were all classically continental in their approach, it was the turn of an English club last night.

Twenty-two times Liverpool have faced Chelsea in Rafael Benitez’s reign. One harrowing afternoon at Anfield apart, you could barely slide a cigarette paper between the sides.

So what made the difference last night?

Undoubtedly a little Dutch of class.

If Chelsea have an English heartbeat in John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, there was little doubt where last night’s inspiration came from.

Guus Hiddink’s credentials stand scrutiny against any other coach in the world game – and last night he devised a crushingly simply masterplan to frustrate, torment and ultimately demolish Liverpool.

“If you feel that the opponent can be hurt in some parts of their team it would be stupid not to go for that,” Hiddink said. So he asked his more physical players to exploit Liverpool’s zonal marking tactic at corners.

Branislav Ivanovic twice brushed Xabi Alonso aside like a playground bully to grab headed goals.

But this wasn’t just a set-piece success.

“We worked hard to stop their weapons, Gerrard and Torres, and the passing triangle they use with the right-back, Arbeloa,” added Hiddink. “You have to disarm them and Essien was the man who was key for this.”

When you say it quickly, it sounds simple. If man to man marking the skipper is the way to suffocate Liverpool everybody would be doing it.

It takes a very special footballer to restrict such a special talent – but Essien is just that.

Chelsea’s big players all enjoyed outstanding evenings – Liverpool’s didn’t – while Essien was the most influential of all.

Even Didier Drogba finally came good, after wasting a hat-trick of openings which could have put this tie to bed before he finally rammed in what should prove a decisive third.

Liverpool failed to impress in too many areas of the field.

While Malouda marauded, Albert Riera was utterly anonymous, where Chelsea defended resolutely, the Reds were ropey – and when Hiddink swopped the physical presence of Drogba for the pacy threat of Anelka, his side still looked just as potent. Liverpool replaced Aurelio for Dossena and looked worse.

After a couple of impressive cameos in recent weeks, the Italian looked more like the bumbling misfit who has elicited incredulous cries of “how much?” than the man to put the gloss on another vital victory.

Indeed the closest Dossena came to adding a fourth goal flourish last night was a clumsy clearance he almost bundled past Pepe Reina with Chelsea already 3-1 to the good.

It’s hard to see Chelsea handing the initiative back to Liverpool next Tuesday, even without their skipper – suspended for a stupid shove on Pepe Reina.

That old adage of ‘being able to concentrate on the league’ is usually a platitude, a cop out – an empty excuse for a cup exit.

This season, fortunately, it still has some relevance – which is just as well.

Because if Liverpool are still in the Champions League next Wednesday morning it will have taken a comeback of Istanbul proportions – and they only come around once every generation.

So, too, – happily – do Dutch masters using Anfield as a canvas on which to express their art.

It’s miracle time again

Liverpool Echo

When the song played on the final whistle at Anfield is the Beatles classic We Can Work It Out you know Liverpool have big problems to overcome.

The choice of music was therefore particularly apt, if a little optimistic, as the chances of Liverpool continuing their march on Rome past the quarter final stage are now so thin the bookies have made them 50/1 outsiders to win this season’s Champions League.

It is Chelsea who have one foot in the semi-finals and only a miraculous turnaround of Istanbul proportions will be enough after the first leg went in favour of the London club to such an extent that Pepe Reina ended up going up for a late corner in the forlorn hope of reducing the deficit.

A desperate measure to go with the desperate times and Liverpool will need more of the same at Stamford Bridge next week if they are to stand any chance of mounting the unlikeliest of comebacks.

Having taken an early lead through Fernando Torres, Rafa Benitez’s men were then ruthlessly swept aside by a Chelsea side which fully deserved to take such a commanding lead into the second leg.

They may be the comeback kings but surely this is one mountain which even Liverpool will not be able to climb.

Three goals are now needed at Stamford Bridge – a venue where they have scored just five times in the last ten seasons – if the Anfield outfit are to stand any chance of doing what Guus Hiddink described as the “unthinkable” and dumping Chelsea out of Europe for the third time in five years.

There can be no excuses for the predicament Liverpool find themselves in either, no hard luck stories to explain how things went so badly wrong.

The harsh truth is that on the night Chelsea were the better side and by no little distance.

It may not sit easily on Merseyside but Chelsea’s performance was so dominant and so complete it is hard to recall a better one by a visiting side at Anfield in recent years.

Solid in defence, authoritative in midfield and creative in attack, in a short space of time Hiddink has succeeded in turning the Londoners back into a force to be reckoned with.

It took something of a freakish horror show from Liverpool for them to be able to establish such a level of supremacy though and Benitez will today be bewildered at how his team slipped so alarmingly from the recent high standards they have set themselves.

The three goals they shipped were totally at odds with a side which had conceded just once in its previous five games, particularly the two free headers which allowed Branislav Ivanovic to become Chelsea’s unlikely hero.

Didier Drogba concluded off the scoring halfway through the second half but had the Ivorian’s finishing been sharper earlier on the deficit could have been even greater.

Bad days at the office do not come much worse than this one and Liverpool are now faced with the slightly unfamiliar scenario of having a better chance of achieving success at home than they have abroad.

For while the European Cup may all of a sudden seem an impossible dream, the Premier League is still a realistic aim and for that reason manager and players must dust off their disappointment and ensure that they are ready for domestic duty at the weekend.

One thing which Benitez will want to work on at the training ground is the compactness of his team as they were uncharacteristically open against Chelsea who were able to exploit the spaces between Liverpool’s back four and midfield.

Perhaps Liverpool were guilty of getting a little bit carried away with themselves and believing that all sides can be swept aside like Real Madrid were in the previous round.

It may not win plaudits from football’s purists but there is nothing wrong with keeping things tight in the first leg of a European tie, particularly against opponents who have the character and resilience to deal with an onslaught and the quality to exploit any openings which appear.

An early goal caused Real to buckle but it actually galvanized Chelsea who were the better side from virtually the moment they went behind.

Liverpool had chances at crucial moments but Dirk Kuyt and Torres were unable to take them and the only setback the visitors suffered was the suspension of John Terry for the second leg after a stupid challenge on Reina.

But when you’ve brought an end to an unbeaten home record which stretches back 32 games and 14 months such concerns are only minor, particularly with Chelsea’s commanding lead meaning that Terry’s absence is unlikely to alter the expected formality of the outcome of this tie.

As those who dismissed Liverpool’s chances of winning the title after their defeat at Middlesbrough can testify, writing the Reds off is a risky business.

There is something about this team which means it is never quite able to throw the towel in and accept defeat, even when the odds are seemingly stacked so inexorably against them.

Put their backs to the wall and they come back fighting, push them into a corner and they will find a way to escape and write them off and they will soon have you eating humble pie.

For this reason alone, Chelsea will not yet be booking their flight to Barcelona for the semi-final but they can at least start watching scouting videos of the Catalan giants without fear of being over presumptuous.

Liverpool will not give up hope of causing another sensation and with the vagaries of football meaning that anything can and often does happen nor should they.

But first they must ensure that they get last night’s reversal out of their system at the very first opportunity and the only way they can do that is by beating Blackburn at Anfield on Saturday.

Having lost just three games in the Premier and Champions leagues so far this season they should certainly have the belief that they can do so and if all three points are taken it will take them back to the top of the division.

So perhaps the Anfield DJ was right, maybe Liverpool can still work it out. It may just be that it is at home rather than abroad that they do so.

Spaniard seeks
Istanbul inspiration

ByJimmy Rice - LFC Official Website

Alvaro Arbeloa today had one word for anyone who believes Liverpool are out of the Champions League: Istanbul.

Rafa Benitez's side need to score at least three goals at Stamford Bridge next week after losing the home leg of their quarter-final 3-1.

Arbeloa knows it will be tough but hopes the Reds can recreate their heroics from the 2005 Champions League final, when they overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit to lift the trophy.

"We can do it - why not? We believe we can," the Spanish full-back told "We have to go there and fight, try to get one goal and then think about another.

"Liverpool won a Champions League final by scoring three goals in 45 minutes, so why can't we get three in 90?

"I think we have to remember Istanbul and believe. We know it's going to be difficult to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but it's not over."

Liverpool led 1-0 after six minutes thanks to a Fernando Torres strike, but two Branislav Ivanovic headers turned the tie on its head before Didier Drogba inflicted more pain on Anfield.

Arbeloa added: "Maybe we defended too deep after the first goal - we gave them too much of the ball. We conceded and that was painful - and then we conceded again."

Reina retains Reds faith

By James Dall - Sky Sports

Jose Reina has not given up on Liverpool's chances of reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals despite suffering a devastating first leg loss at home to Chelsea.

The Reds endured a 3-1 defeat at Anfield against their Premier League rivals in the first meeting of their last-eight tie.

Having netted three away goals, Chelsea are now in a commanding position, but Liverpool goalkeeper Reina remains optimistic of a dramatic fightback at Stamford Bridge next week.

The Spaniard told Sky Sports: "The game is going to be much tougher now. We have to go to Stamford Bridge and beat them 3-1 or 3-0.

"But, as I said before, we are capable of winning at any stadium. We know we have to put ourselves back on track and try not to make the same mistakes."

Full-back Fabio Aurelio said: "We cannot let it [the loss] affect us. We have been playing really well and the team has been really confident.

"For sure, the result has been a disappointment. But we know that we still have a chance."

Midfielder Lucas Leiva added: "We know that it is going to be really difficult, but not impossible. We now have to think about the Premier League, and then the second leg."

Benitez rues defensive mistakes

By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website

Rafael Benitez was left to rue costly defensive mistakes after Chelsea secured a commanding 3-1 lead in the first-leg of the Champions League quarter final at Anfield.

The Reds boss was hugely frustrated by his side's performance after Fernando Torres' opener was cancelled out by efforts from Branislav Ivanovic (2) and Didier Drogba.

It means Liverpool need to score three times at Stamford Bridge to have any chance of progressing and the Spaniard concedes it will be a tall order for his team to book a place in the last four.

"We scored the first goal and were doing well," he told the post-match press conference. "After that we lost control and they had chances.

"We conceded from a corner from which we could have done better. It is difficult to stop them because they have five or six players who are really strong in the air. It was a free header and that was a mistake.

"We had three players around and didn't stop him (Ivanovic). When you have people in that zone you must control that space but clearly we made a mistake."

Asked what he said to the players in the dressing room after such a disappointing result, Benitez said: "We were talking about the next game because we have an important game on Saturday against Blackburn.

"We have to be ready for that. Then we can think about the second game. We have to score three goals to progress. It will be very, very difficult but we still have 90 minutes to play.

"We have to forget this one and start thinking about Blackburn first and only then can we look at the second leg."

Chelsea's response to going a goal behind saw them take on an attacking mentality that led to three priceless away goals.

Asked if he was caught off guard by their offensive tactics, Benitez said: "I wasn't surprised because Chelsea are a strong team.

"They have won 11 games away in the Premier League and have a lot of confidence and are playing well.

"You have to play really well to beat them. We started well but after that we didn't play to our level.

"To lose any game is difficult, especially in this competition because everyone was suggesting we had a good chance.

"We need to forget as soon as possible. We need to think about Blackburn and then we can concentrate on the Chelsea game."

Hiddink still wary of Reds

By Elliot Ball - Sky Sports

Boss Guus Hiddink has warned his Chelsea team that Liverpool are still capable of 'unthinkable things' after the Blues' shock 3-1 first-leg victory against Rafael Benitez' Reds.

Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash saw two of England's super-powers lock horns in what now been regarded as their annual European double-headers.

History tells us that the team who has home advantage first, ends up the loser and it looks like history is going to repeat itself as Chelsea came away from Anfield the victors thanks to a Branislav Ivanovic brace and Didier Drogba's finish to cancel out Fernando Torres' opener.

The result leaves the Blues firmly in the driving seat going into next Tuesday's return leg at Stamford Bridge and Hiddink admitted it was the perfect result in his first game against Liverpool.

When asked if the game could not have gone better, the Chelsea man told Sky Sports: "No, especially here at Anfield.

"It's very difficult always to play, so the scenario was perfect, although when we got 1-0 down, but I must give the compliments to the team because they react, they always react now, that's good to see."

Wednesday's fixture saw Hiddink and Benitez pit wits against each other for only the second-time in their careers - the last coming when Hiddink's mighty Real Madrid battered Benitez' lowly Extremadura 5-1 back in 1998 in the Spanish League.

And it was the Dutchman who took the edge in the tactical battle this time round after nullifying the threat of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard with Michael Essien man-marking the Reds talisman.

But Hiddink stayed true to his claim before the match that he would attack the Merseysiders and the Blues boss added: "[Chelsea's plan was] not just leaning on defence to neutralise Torres and Steve Gerrard, but to get them sweating in their defence.

"We aimed to score and when you score three that's a luxury."

Attention now turns to Premier League action against Bolton before Tuesday's second-leg and Hiddink believes the full-squad of players are going to be crucial towards their tilt for domestic and European glory.

One player who is certainly out of the return leg is John Terry, whose booking sees him suspended for the Reds' visit to London next week, but the Chelsea boss believes his team will cope without their skipper.

"The schedule is tying up - every three or four days a game, so John is not available and we have some good replacements.

But Hiddink warned his players to expect the unexpected when Liverpool come to the capital.

He added. "We have to be very concentrated of course - it's half-time.

"If we think we can play a relaxed game, that's not what might happen because Liverpool have shown in the past that they can do unthinkable things, we have to avoid that.

Blues stopper
hails 'great result'


Petr Cech hailed Chelsea's "great advantage" after they won 3-1 at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool.

Two goals from Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic and a third from Didier Drogba put the Blues in total control of the tie after Fernando Torres' early opener.

"I think this is a great result but it didn't start well for us and after a few minutes we were 1-0 down, which was the last thing we wanted, but we had a great reaction," he told Sky Sports.

"Branislav scored important goals from set-plays - the second arrived at the best possible time.

"The third one, they gambled and we had space on the counter-attack. I think this is a great advantage for the home leg."

Ivanovic added: "These are my first goals (for Chelsea) and I am very happy. We played like a team and this is great for us."

Cech warned his jubilant team-mates that there was still all to play for at Stamford Bridge in next week's second leg.

"We are still at half-time and you know 3-1 is great result at half-time, but we have to play the second half," he said.

"But now we are the favourites to go through because we have the advantage. It will be very hard for them to score three goals."

Ivan the Terrible
for bloodied Reds

By Chris Stanton - Setanta Sports

Branislav Ivanovic was the unlikeliest of heroes in a 3-1 win for Chelsea at Anfield, as The Blues pinned Liverpool’s shoulders to the mat for the one-two-three that may be every bit as decisive as the count would suggest in a Champions League quarter final tie of familiar foes.

Familiarity has bred contempt but rather than the awkward impasse that usually accompanies occasions such as these, Chelsea dazzled, imposing their personality on a match that sprang to vivid life. It ended with the team in blue planting a foot in the tournament's semi-finals and their opponents in red checking other body parts for irreparable damage.

We came expecting a chess match but got instead a contest with steel chairs.

Liverpool clobbered Chelsea over the head as early as the sixth minute when Fernando Torres shot home.

The visitors shuddered momentarily but recovered full use of their faculties and though Ivanovic, twice exposing Liverpool’s zonal marking from corners in scoring his first goals for The Blues, was the surprise assailant, that is not to suggest his team were not worthy winners.

Didier Drogba's third goal struck 23 minutes from time was the most crushing of blows.

The performance of Guus Hiddink’s side, from the containing qualities of Michael Essien to the interminable threat of Drogba, was all the more remarkable given the concession of such an early goal.

After Ivanovic’s loose clearance, Dirk Kuyt played the ball wide to Alvaro Arbeloa and his slid cross was finished from 10 yards in the consummate fashion that is Torres’s trademark.

Chelsea could have silenced Liverpool cheers almost immediately. Salomon Kalou put Fabio Aurelio under pressure and when the full back was unable to keep possession, the Chelsea wideman teed up Drogba who had only Jose Reina to beat. The Spaniard was out quickly, but the Ivorian hedged his bets and shot straight, at the place where Reina stood resolutely.

The normally cagey first leg that had been anticipated was replaced by two teams who seemed intent on settling the contest in the first 15 minutes of the first half of the first game.

Florent Malouda fired wide at one end, while, at the other, Lampard was dispossessed by Torres who, with no support, turned inside before bending a hopeful shot at goal that cleared Cech’s crossbar by a yard.

Drogba missed another two to bring his side level in the 28th minute. Michael Ballack’s coaxed pass gave the Ivorian another unobstructed view of Reina’s goal, but, on his less-favoured left foot, the striker cracked a shot over the bar.

Arbeloa cut inside on to his weaker left foot and curled a shot wide, but the visitors were the more impressive in attack and deservedly drew level six minutes before half-time when Ivanovic exposed Liverpool’s zonal marking system from a corner to head past Reina from six yards.

Just as Chelsea had the opportunity to stick cheers in collective throats though, so Kuyt could have regained the lead for his team only to be denied by a save from Cech.

The suspicion that the first half might have been an aberration outside of the tactical control of messrs Hiddink and Benitez was quickly dismissed. Wednesday's match was no place for cynics.

On one rare occasion when Steven Gerrard circumnavigated the near impenetrable wall built by Michael Essien, Liverpool's captain shot wide.

Drogba was running in on goal for a third time in the 53rd minute but, like the previous two occasions, failed to capitalise. After Aurelio’s misplaced pass had given the Ivorian his unexpected opportunity, his scuffed shot that beat Reina was cleared from the line by Jamie Carragher.

The same shooting inaccuracy proved contagious as Torres also skied a very presentable opening.

John Terry received an unwarranted yellow card that will rule him out of the second leg shortly before the hour mark after colliding headfirst with the torso of Reina.

Injustice evaporated almost immediately, though, as his team took the lead through Ivanovic’s second goal of the game. Again he exposed Liverpool’s marking from a corner, heading home emphatically from an inswinging Lampard delivery.

Rafa Benitez needed to take action and was calling on his team’s latest matchwinner, Yossi Benayoun, midway through the half, but unbeknown to the Spaniard, the match – and possibly the tie - was about to be decided.

Chelsea’s football was again too good as Ballack's ball down the line was weighted perfectly for Florent Malouda who slid a ball across the goal for a rampaging Drogba to bury emphatically.

Understandably content with their lot, Hiddink’s side sat back for the final 15 minutes but retained a threat on the break, not least when Drogba’s lofted cross was eyed by both Reina and substitute Andrea Dossena.

The arrival of runaway train Ryan Babel for the lamentable Lucas Leiva 10 minutes from time was long overdue but it failed to lift Liverpool’s crushed spirit and Lampard might even have added a flattering fourth had Reina not been out quickly.

Battered and bruised, Liverpool have just six days to shrug off the effects of a punishing 90 minutes before next week's second leg at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea's lead has the appearance of something insurmountable.

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