Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
It's not much comfort to Liverpudians
today to hear everyone saying what a classic last night’s
We lost it when we had taken control so emphatically by half
time. And today we are out of the European Cup – a trophy we
have won so many times and were so close to winning once
But there is no doubt the players and staff of Liverpool
Football Club can hold their heads up high today and be
proud they gave Chelsea the scare of their lives when the
odds were so heavily stacked against us. It was a truly
magnificent effort from every one in a red shirt.
Again, we’ve gone and scored a bagful of goals but
unfortunately we’ve conceded just as many and that’s been
In truth, the damage was clearly done in the first leg at
Anfield, when we defended so poorly from those two corners
to gift the London side the advantage.
But we have showed so much character and determination to
turn it around last night that it is almost impossible to be
critical of Rafa Benitez and his team.
Liverpool Football Club has been involved in so many great
games down the years. And when you win these classics it’s a
There was Istanbul, before that the UEFA Cup win over
Alaves, too. And so many others too numerous to mention.
Last night it was our turn to be involved in a really great
game – but to come out of it as losers for once.
I honestly believe if Steven Gerrard had been fit he would
have revelled in that sort of game last night. And he just
might have made the difference.
We missed him when it mattered most.
However, you have to give credit to every man in red for
bringing us so close.
I am sure the players will not be down after such a
The Premier League is still there for us to take and we are
playing so well in so many ways, that the message is simple.
Hard luck lads – it wasn’t to be last night, but keep
chasing down United till the season is done.
We can definitely win all of our remaining games I am sure
If we can do that, then last night’s tears might yet just
end in smiles for everyone!
Brave Reds can
hold heads high
Comment by Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
On a day when the Liverpool anthem You’ll
Never Walk Alone takes on even greater emotional
significance, it is particularly apt that the club’s players
and supporters can hold their heads up high today.
Last night, pride came after Liverpool’s fall.
Rafa Benitez’s team produced one of the most heroic
performances in the Reds’ illustrious history as they came
agonisingly close to conjuring up the kind of sensational
result which would have stunned football.
It is Chelsea who take their place in the last four of this
season’s Champions League, but it is Liverpool who again
defied logic and who almost created a tale of the unexpected
to rival even that which was written in Istanbul.
They may have lost the tie, but the Anfield men will have
only added to their army of admirers with a display of such
courage that it surely matched anything ever produced by a
Liverpool team in a losing cause.
Before the second leg got underway, Benitez and several of
his players had been at pains to tell the club’s fans that
the 96 who died at Hillsborough 20 years ago today were
uppermost in their thoughts and that they would play in
To a man they were as good as their word. Although they were
unable to secure the unlikely victory which they so dearly
wanted to dedicate to the families of the bereaved, they
still emerged with their honour very much intact.
Last week’s events at Anfield meant Chelsea were the
strongest of favourites to qualify for the semi-finals.
Rightly so, as no team had ever overturned a first leg 3-1
deficit away from home.
But in the first half, Liverpool played with a verve and a
collective determination which threatened to make a mockery
of the record book. While the 2-0 lead they had established
by the interval was certainly welcome, it did not actually
provide a total reflection of just how dominant the visitors
Fabio Aurelio’s quick thinking had shown up the struggling
Petr Cech’s tendency to drift too close to his far post at
deadball situations, a weakness Benitez had picked up on in
the Anfield leg of this pulsating tie.
Cech’s very own version of zonal marking – he picks up one
area and the free kick taker shoots towards another – was
shown to be wholly inadequate as Liverpool’s Brazilian set
piece specialist produced a more than passable impression of
a certain Gary McAllister.
Xabi Alonso then doubled the lead from the penalty spot
after first leg hero Branislav Ivanovic showed that he can
do impressions of his own – in his case, the Boston
The midfield maestro did the rest after referee Luis
Cantalejo duly pointed to the spot. It would be tempting to
point out that from that point on the erratic Spanish
official seemed keen to even things up by awarding every
50/50 decision in Chelsea’s favour – and there would be more
than enough evidence to mount a case to that effect.
But it would only serve to cheapen Liverpool’s Herculean
efforts and detract from one of the greatest games the
Champions League will ever see if the referee was the
subject of too much criticism.
One of the main reasons why this clash was such a thrilling
spectacle was that mistakes were being made all over the
pitch and unfortunately for Pepe Reina he made one which
helped bring Guus Hiddink’s side back into the game. The
Spanish keeper should have dealt better with a near post
prod from Didier Drogba – a man who is to balance what Amy
Winehouse is to sobriety – and all of a sudden Chelsea’s
players went from not wanting the ball to being desperate
Reina has been one of Liverpool’s star performers this
season and such errors are incredibly rare.
While the Chelsea fans – who had disgracefully booed their
own team off just minutes earlier – attempted to mock him it
was significant and wholly right that those in the away end
chanted his name.
There was nothing he could do to stop Chelsea’s equaliser as
Alex thumped home a howitzer of a free kick to swing the
pendulum back in favour of the Blues.
Lucas brought the tie back to life with a deflected effort
as Liverpool became the first away side ever to score three
goals at Stamford Bridge in Europe.
When Dirk Kuyt scored a close range header it left them
needing just one more goal to create the kind of history
which legends are made of.
With such a precious prize having been brought back so
tantalisingly into reach, all Liverpool could do was commit
men forward in hope of fulfilling a previously impossible
Their spirit of adventure proved to be their downfall as
Chelsea broke away and Lampard got his second of the night.
Even then there was still time for substitute David Ngog to
have a shot cleared off the line as Liverpool refused to lie
down and accept their fate. In the end, their efforts
counted for nothing as Chelsea booked their passage to a
glamour tie with Barcelona in the semi-finals.
The reality is that Liverpool cost themselves a trip to the
Nou Camp with the mountain they gave themselves to climb
after the first leg.
But the fact that they came so close to scaling the highest
of peaks does them so much credit that it would be harsh and
perhaps even unfair to be critical of them for whichever
shortcomings mean they will not be adding to their five
European Cups. Well, not this season anyway.
Heroes to a man they are now faced with the task of licking
their wounds and coming back to another domestic battle,
this time with Manchester United in the tussle for the
Premier League title.
Should they continue to show the same character and spirit
then they will push United all the way at the very least.
Like everyone else on Merseyside though, their focus today
will be on taking part in a fitting memorial to the victims
They can do so in the knowledge that last night they did
their club and their fans as proud as it is possible to
imagine without victory being secured.
And worse was to follow for Liverpool as Frank Lampard took
advantage of some tired legs in the Reds backline to
seemingly put the tie beyond doubt.
Anyone who thought it was all over at that stage reckoned
without the seemingly endless reserves of character and
willpower which Liverpool are able to dig into when their
backs are pressed against the wall.
march on - just
TEAMtalk reflects on Tuesday night's
incredible drama at Stamford Bridge - and reckons it will
quite rightly go down as one of the classics.
After the first half-hour, it looked like a night to hail
the genius of Rafael Benitez: perhaps, even, to proclaim him
the unparalleled modern master of continental competition.
A night when his team selection spelled out the need for
patience even in such steep adversity; a night when
Benitez's series of tactical master-strokes could make light
of the absence of Steven Gerrard.
Conversely, it looked like the kind of night to send Roman
Abramovich over to his bank vault to pack up the remains of
his dwindling billions and pack back off to deepest, darkest
A night which would show up the shocking ineptitude of an
ageing side shorn of their talismanic leader John Terry,
squandering possession, sitting too deep and positively
encouraging a Liverpool revival.
Fast forward to Jose Reina's painful flap at a Nicolas
Anelka cross and a thumping free-kick by Alex, and the story
had been turned on its head: a triumph of will; glorious
vindication of the genius of Guus Hiddink.
When the dust had finally settled, it had come to be about
so much more than that.
No longer black or white: after eight goals and
extraordinary excitement, a night which showed the true
colours of football at its best.
Proof that a tournament, whose critics argue it is slowly
eaten at by bureaucrats to keep the game of chance to a
minimum and serve the interests of money men, could still
serve up the kinds of classics befitting of its history.
Liverpool may have headed home as the losers, but they did
so with pride having had the audacity to haul themselves
back to the brink of an astonishing turnaround victory just
when all seemed lost.
Likewise, rumours of Chelsea's questionable resolve were
shattered by the way they came to terms with the enormous
pressure of knowing what would happen if they tossed away a
hard-earned first leg lead in such profligate fashion.
They committed themselves to the comeback and they got the
break when - irony of ironies - Anelka and Didier Drogba,
the pair often highlighted as the root cause of Chelsea's
problems this season, combined almost unintentionally to
Perhaps this is the start of a bright new era after all for
Abramovich's Blues - starting with this season's elusive
Champions League trophy.
If nights like these and hopes like that don't tempt Roman
to extend his stay, then surely nothing will.
inspire League glory
By Jimmy Rice at Stamford Bridge - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez believes his side's gallant
defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals
could inspire them to Premier League glory.
The Reds almost completed a remarkable turnaround after the
3-1 first leg loss with first-half strikes from Fabio
Aurelio and Xabi Alonso.
Two goals for Chelsea early in the second half then looked
to have ended the tie before Lucas and Dirk Kuyt once again
stunned Stamford Bridge.
Hopes of a miracle comeback were only dashed in the 89th
minute when Frank Lampard netted his second of the game to
make it 4-4 on the night (7-5 on aggregate).
Benitez told reporters afterwards: "We showed character and
quality and we have to be really proud. The players have
done a fantastic job and the fans will be really pleased
with the team.
"We were on top of them from the beginning. Credit must go
to all the players, especially Lucas in the middle. In the
position of Steven Gerrard he worked extremely hard. The
players were pushing and pushing and we were very close.
"I think, clearly, when you lose you have to be disappointed
but when you lose in this way you have to be proud and have
your head up.
"Thinking about the Premier League, maybe it's positive
because if we can score four goals here at Stamford Bridge,
we can do the same in any stadium. We can win a lot of games
with this mentality."
Benitez believes Liverpool were undone by a handful of
mistakes in what was otherwise a memorable performance.
"When you play against a good side like Chelsea and make a
mistake, you pay," he said. "Clearly we attacked and were
controlling but with one or two mistakes they scored."
Benitez was quizzed on the absence of skipper Gerrard from
his matchday squad.
"He felt something in his adductor so he wasn't available,"
he said. "It was an easy decision - he couldn't play."
Benitez believes Gerrard will recover in time to face
Arsenal in the Premier League in a week's time.
"I think so," said the boss. "It's not serious. We thought
he could be available today but in the end he wasn't."
On the substitution of Fernando Torres 10 minutes from time
with the aggregate score 6-3, Benitez added: "Torres is
okay. I thought it would be difficult so I wanted to change
something and give minutes to a player with quality like
in Bridge epic
By Alex Livie - Setanta Sports
Roman Abramovich’s dream of Champions
League glory is alive but his Chelsea side were forced to
dig deep into their reserves to see off Liverpool and secure
safe passage to the last four with a 4-4 draw.
The Russian brought in Guus Hiddink to steady a listing ship
and the Dutch tactician has charted The Blues through choppy
waters to a relative oasis of calm.
Calm, though, it was not at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool
raced into a two-goal lead through Fabio Aurelio and Xabi
Alonso. Chelsea had the look of a punch-drunk boxer, but
managed to clear their heads and a mistake from Jose Reina
halved The Reds’ advantage and a stunning free kick from
Alex levelled the scores on the night.
Chelsea caught Liverpool on the break 15 minutes from time
and Frank Lampard lashed home to nudge his side ahead.
The goalmouth action was not done as Lucas fired home with
the aid of a deflection off Michael Essien and Dirk Kuyt
headed home to hand The Reds a 4-3 lead.
Chelsea were faltering but Lampard hit his second of the
night to secure a 4-4 draw and a 7-5 aggregate success.
Both sides were shorn of their inspirational leaders, Steven
Gerrard through injury and John Terry suspension, and it was
a cagey rather than gung-ho start to the contest.
The first chance was fashioned by Liverpool and it really
should have been taken. Kuyt drove in from the flank before
laying a ball into the path of Yossi Benayoun. The Israeli
demonstrated great vision by backheeling the ball into the
path of Torres. The movement of the Spaniard took him clear
of Ricardo Carvalho but with the whites of Petr Cech’s eyes
in his sights, he sliced his shot well wide of target.
With Chelsea showing little by way of attacking intent,
Liverpool required inspiration and Aurelio provided in on 19
There appeared little danger when the Brazilian stood over a
free kick 25 yards out, nearer the touchline than the goal.
Cech was expecting a cross into the box and edged a yard too
far, which was all the invitation Aurelio needed to fizz a
curling effort in at the near post.
Following 20 minutes of relative calm, Liverpool suddenly
had the bit between their teeth and it took a timely
intervention from Branislav Ivanovic to deny Benayoun a
clear shooting opportunity.
Within a minute, though, Ivanovic – the star of the first
leg – had turned from hero to zero. Referee Luis Medina
Cantalejo penalised the Serb for a foul on Alonso that
received few protests but replays clearly proved him to be
Alonso needed no second invitation and slammed the penalty
beyond Cech, to level the scores at 3-3 on aggregate but
with Chelsea ahead on away goals.
Guus Hiddink had seen enough and hauled off Salomon Kalou
and two headers from Ivanovic provided some sort of threat
to the Liverpool goal, but The Blues were all at sea at the
back and Cech pulled off a fine save from a Kuyt header and
was then fortunate to see his defence scramble the ball
clear after he had made a complete mess of a cross.
The interval appeared to do little to settle Cech’s nerves
as an ill-advised dash off his line put his side in trouble
and if Aurelio’s cross had been a little more precise, it
could have spelled real danger for Chelsea.
It appeared as if the goalkeeping jitters were contagious,
as Reina gifted Chelsea a goal and a real confidence boost
on 51 minutes.
Anelka deserves real credit for digging out a cross from
wide on the right, as does Drogba for getting in front of
his marker and touching the ball towards goal, but the ball
should have been collected by Reina but he somehow allowed
the ball to squirm through his grasp and over the line.
The pendulum appeared to swing back Chelsea’s way and within
seconds of Drogba planting a free kick a foot wide of
target, Alex fired The Blues back on level terms on the
The Brazilian is one of the fiercest strikers of a dead ball
and he made true contact from 30 yards to leave Reina
grasping at thin air.
Chances were traded at both ends in the final 20 minutes,
Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres went close for The
Reds, while Michael Ballack shot straight at Reina following
superb work from Drogba.
Liverpool had to take risks in the final 15 minutes and were
caught out. Ballack broke up play before playing Drogba in
on the left side of the penalty box, the Ivorian drove the
ball across the area and Lampard was on hard to fire the
Lampard’s goal did not ease the nerves, as Lucas fired home
with the aid of a wicked deflection off Essien and within a
minute Kuyt had headed home to hand Liverpool the lead on
One more goal would have taken Liverpool through, but
Lampard grabbed his second of the night via both posts for a
7-5 aggregate success.
Barcelona lie in wait and if the two legs against the
Catalans are anything like this, then we are in for a treat.