After The Match 


Chelsea-Liverpool 4-4 (0-2)       14.4.09                             CL
Goals: Aurelio (19), Alonso (28 pen), Lucas (81), Kuyt (83)
Reina (51 og), Alex 57, Lampard (76, 89)
Team: Reina, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Kuyt, Lucas, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Torres
Subs: Riera (Mascherano 69), Ngog (Torres 80),
Babel (Arbeloa 85)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger
Yellow: Benayoun (41), Arbeloa (74)
Ivanovic (29), Carvalho (58), Cole (65)
Red: None
Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo
Attendance: 38,286


Shots on target: 6.7
Shots off target: 7-4
Blocked shots: 4-6
Fouls conceded: 14-29
Corners: 4-4
Offsides: 3-5
Possession: 40.3-59.7
Yellow: 3-2

HEADLINES  "We showed character
and quality..."

Rafael Benitez
1504: Gerrard blow cost Liverpool dearly
1504: Brave Reds can hold heads high
1404: Roman's troops march on - just
1404: Rafa: This can inspire League glory
1404: Blues win through in Bridge epic

Gerrard blow cost
Liverpool dearly

Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

It's not much comfort to Liverpudians today to hear everyone saying what a classic last night’s
match was.

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 again.

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 our undoing.

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 tremendous feeling.

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 wonderful effort.

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 of that.

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 their honour.

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 had been.

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 Strangler.

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 for possession.

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 dream.

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 of Hillsborough.

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.

Roman's troops
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 Siberia.

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 befuddle Reina.

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.

Rafa: This can
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 Ngog."

Blues win through
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 minutes.

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 correct.

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 night.

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 ball home.

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 the night.

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.

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