"We're all behind you, John... (Photo: Reuters)
Riise reveals own goal pain
By Eivind Haugen - Sky Sports
John Arne Riise has spoken of his
heartbreak following the own goal against Chelsea in
Tuesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final.
Liverpool had taken the lead in the first leg at Anfield
before Riise stooped to head Salomon Kalou's cross past his
own goalkeeper in the final minute of injury time.
The away goal has given Chelsea the edge ahead of next
week's return leg at Stamford Bridge and Riise admits he was
"It was very disappointing to see the ball go in our own
net, especially at that time," The Norwegian full-back told
He added in The Sun: "What can I say? I'm ashamed and
However, Riise is determined to respond in the right way and
help his team-mates overcome Chelsea in the second leg.
"Sometimes you experience these things and for defenders it
happens from time to time. Now it has happened to me," he
"I know how strong I am mentally, and what really matters is
how you recover. I've experienced tougher things and I know
I will learn from this.
"I'm disappointed, but I won't go around and hang my head. I
have to use this as something positive."
Hansen: Reds can turn it round
By Frank Malley - PA Chief Sports Writer
Former Liverpool captain Alan Hansen is
backing Rafael Benitez to take his old club to their third
Champions League final in four seasons.
Hansen accepts Chelsea are the bookies' favourites after
John Arne Riise's 95th minute own goal gave them a 1-1 draw
and a precious away goal to take back to Stamford Bridge for
the second leg of the semi-final next Wednesday.
But he believes Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres could
still play a big part in the all-English encounter.
Hansen said: "Torres and Gerrard did not play particularly
well but they can change the game in two seconds flat.
"Liverpool might have won the game by two or three last
night without playing particularly well, which shows you
that when they have got the best players on the pitch they
can compete with anybody.
"Benitez knows he has the players who can turn it around. He
will play the game itself exactly the same way. He will be
cautious and try to nick a goal. It would be no surprise to
see Liverpool going through."
However, Hansen expects Liverpool fans to have a long and
nervous night in the capital.
He said: "It wouldn't surprise me if it went to penalties
and extra time again."
Hansen does not expect Riise's howler, when he stooped to
head the ball into his own net when it appeared much easier
to clear with his right foot, to play on the defender's mind
He said: "You just pick yourself up. He should have hit it
with his right foot. He did the same thing at Fulham in the
cup earlier in the season.
"It came to him quick and he got it wrong, but he's not the
first to get it wrong when he should have gone with his
right but did something else. They are professionals. You
just get on with it.
"If it affects him in the next game he shouldn't be there.
After all, half of English football haven't got a right foot
and a left foot. He's not the only one."
can Bridge the gap
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard believes
goal machine Fernando Torres can help the Reds end their
poor record at Stamford Bridge and reach the Champions
In manager Rafael Benitez's four seasons in charge of
Liverpool they have not even scored a goal on Chelsea's
But Gerrard shrugged off those damning statistics by saying:
"We haven't gone there with Torres in our side before."
Liverpool have fired blanks on eight occasions at Stamford
Bridge under Benitez - two Champions League 0-0 draws and a
goalless Premier League game there this term are the best
the Merseysiders have managed.
Now all that has to change if Liverpool are going to reach
the European Cup final in Moscow on May 21.
Chelsea have only been beaten at home by Barcelona in those
four seasons, having built Stamford Bridge into a fortress.
So after Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first-leg 1-1
draw at Anfield between sides who have clashed 19 times
during Benitez's four-year reign, Liverpool will have to
Gerrard and his team suffered the agony of John Arne Riise's
95th minute own goal as a priceless victory was snatched
And they have it all to do in the capital next Wednesday to
stop Chelsea reaching their first European Cup final.
But Gerrard remained defiant, saying: "We have the players
and the belief. We've done it so many times, this team never
knows when it is beaten.
"We may not have scored or won at Chelsea in four years, but
we haven't been there with Fernando in the team before.
"Even the two games there this season, the league draw and
the Carling Cup defeat, Fernando wasn't playing."
Torres, who has 30 goals this season, had a rare off-night
under the close attention of centre-back John Terry.
Chelsea keeper Petr Cech also produced two wonderful saves
from the Spaniard to keep the west Londoners in the tie.
Dirk Kuyt put the hosts ahead in the first half, and
Liverpool had enough clear chances to put the game beyond
Chelsea long before Riise's howler.
Gerrard said: "Chelsea know they will be in for a tough time
next week, there may be a little more space for Fernando,
and I don't hear any of their players thinking it's all
"Torres can cause any defence problems. You saw that in the
first leg. He was very disappointed not to score.
"We've been to Inter Milan and Arsenal in this season's run
and scored. So I can't see why we cannot score at Stamford
"We created the better chances at Anfield and I don't recall
Pepe Reina having anything to do except pick the ball out of
"Cech pulled off two or three fantastic saves and we believe
that even if we had come off that pitch winning 1-0, it
should have been at least 2-0 or 3-0."
With full-back Fabio Aurelio now out for at least a
fortnight with a recurrence of his abductor muscle injury,
Riise will almost certainly have to play from the start in
the second leg.
But Gerrard had words of encouragement for his Norwegian
team-mate, whose future at Anfield has been in doubt for
Gerrard said: "John has been here a long time and done great
things for this club and as captain I cannot point any
fingers. But we've got to get John's head right, because he
will have an important job to play next week."
Centre-back Jamie Carragher also refused to blame Riise for
Liverpool's last-ditch anguish.
The defender, who fought a tremendous running battle with
Didier Drogba, said: "There is no blame attached to John
because there's a couple of things we could have done to
stop the cross coming into the box.
"It is a team game and we are all in it together. It affects
all of us and we have got to move on now.
"We know it is going to be tough. There is a slight
advantage to them now. But if we get a goal, it's advantage
"So we have got to go there and score with time to get
another one. They are very tough defensively so it is going
to be hard to score, but it's about time we did there.
"It is a different scenario now. We go there knowing we have
got to score, so it is a different mentality altogether
dream is still alive
By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
Come back Bruno Cheyrou, all is forgiven.
The much maligned Frenchman remains the last Liverpool
player to score at Stamford Bridge and someone is going to
have to repeat his feat of four years ago if the current
side is to stand any chance of qualifying for their third
European Cup final since then.
John Arne Riise’s injury time own goal was the kind of
sickening blow not suffered at Anfield since Michael Thomas
won Arsenal the league title with the last kick of the game
It gave Chelsea a crucial away goal and makes Avram Grant’s
side favourites to make it through to Moscow.
But it should not be allowed to mask the fact that, after a
shaky start, Liverpool were the better side and could and
perhaps should have put the tie beyond doubt by the time
Riise used his head when a swipe of the right foot would
have been more advisable.
Had Petr Cech not enjoyed one of those nights which prove
why he is considered the best keeper in the world and had
Fernando Torres not endured pretty much his first night to
forget in a Liverpool shirt, Rafa Benitez’s men would have
won and done so quite comfortably.
Pepe Reina’s role as a spectator would only have been more
apparent had the Liverpool keeper joined in with the Kop
when they did the visually stunning Torres bounce.
But Chelsea kept up their knack of producing a result that
their performance level did not deserve when a Liverpool
player did something no-one dressed in blue had looked
likely to do all night.
Riise was drugs tested after the game and no doubt the
testers wanted to know what kind of substance would cause a
top level footballer to make such a calamitous decision at
such a crucial moment.
In truth, though, the Norwegian’s refusal to use his right
foot has been an accident waiting to happen for far too long
and last night it happened at the worst possible moment.
The chances of Riise being able to head Salomon Kalou’s
hopeful cross over his own bar were as slim as the
possibility of Didier Drogba staying on his feet for 90
minutes but for some unfathomable reason he attempted to do
so and only succeeded in sending the ball crashing past
Only the cruellest of souls will sing ‘I wanna know how you
scored that goal’ to Riise from now on.
It was only an equaliser but such was the nature and the
timing of the goal, Anfield deflated as if Liverpool had
An air of celebration was replaced by a mood of desolation
as the reality set in that Liverpool had gone from odds on
favourites to underdogs in the blink of an eye.
That mood will be difficult to shift but Benitez could do a
lot worse than gather his players at Melwood to take them
through the video of this game because that should restore
their belief that they can still conquer Chelsea.
Liverpool have nothing to fear from the side built with
Roman Abramovich’s fortune, not on this evidence anyway.
Yes, they are obstinate and hard to beat and yes, they seem
to have an innate ability to get results they ill deserve.
But when it comes down to it, they are not a great side –
far from it.
Arsenal were vanquished in the last round and they are a far
superior outfit to their London rivals. Similarly, Inter
Milan have a pedigree that Chelsea cannot match and they
were also disposed of.
And it should not be forgotten that in both of those ties
Liverpool managed to score an away goal, something they have
done on every single European trip so far this season.
They also have one of the Champions League’s most in-form
strikers in Dirk Kuyt who has now scored eight goals in his
last 12 European games.
The Dutchman has developed a welcome habit of scoring on the
biggest occasions and having notched the winning penalty in
last year’s dramatic shootout win over Chelsea at the same
stage of the competition he will again be hopeful of being
the hero of the hour.
It certainly looked like Kuyt would acquire such status last
night after he scored a goal which appeared likely to be the
winner until Riise’s unfortunate intervention.
There are still those in football who find fault with Kuyt,
damning him with faint praise for being an artisan rather
than an artist.
But in sport, as in life, hard work can so often pay off and
Kuyt and Liverpool are currently feasting on the fruits of
his labour on an increasingly regular basis.
In the past his industry has not always been accompanied by
end product but the way Kuyt created his goal last night
showed what he is all about.
Other players would have allowed Frank Lampard the time to
clear his lines but that’s not what Kuyt’s about. Instead he
closed the England man down and got a block in before making
his way into the box to seize on Javier Mascherano’s
misplaced shot and firing the loose ball past Cech.
Apart from a wonderful block by Mascherano when Florent
Malouda looked set to score, Chelsea barely troubled
Liverpool from that point on.
With Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher bossing Drogba, the
visitors looked short of ideas and equally bereft of any
In contrast, Liverpool continued to look menacing, largely
thanks to their ambitious approach which saw them push men
forward into attacking positions at every opportunity.
Xabi Alonso pulled the strings in midfield in his best
performance in a number of weeks and Chelsea’s central
defensive pairing of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were
forced into increasingly foul means to keep the red tide at
How Terry got to injury time before finally being booked is
a question only the normally card happy Konrad Plautz can
At times the Austrian referee seemed intent on turning
football into a non-contact sport with countless
insignificant incidents producing free-kicks. But he also
allowed Terry and Carvalho to use the kind of overly
physical approach on Torres not seen since the days when Ron
‘Chopper’ Harris wore Chelsea blue.
Torres will learn from that. He now knows exactly what
Chelsea’s twin centre backs are about and will be ready for
that when the two sides meet in next week’s second leg.
And should the Spaniard go on to score the winning goal at
Stamford Bridge he will take Cheyrou’s mantle – what more
could you ask for in your first season in English football?
Liverpool must play
with passion to make Moscow
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
Liverpool don't have to climb a mountain
to succeed in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, but they
will need to scale a few more heights than they managed last
Yes, it was a sucker punch. Yes, the Reds were unlucky given
the good chances they created. But the game did not live up
to the passionate, exciting affair we had all anticipated.
The Reds deserved to win but failed to dictate and dominate
after going ahead, leaving the door open for an unfortunate
late twist of fate.
There was always the danger that Chelsea might score, which
is why I thought the second half was so disappointing. I was
surprised that with another 45 minutes to add to our lead –
and make the Londoners’ hopes slim in the return – it just
As the game wore on, Rafa Benitez’s men didn’t really look
like they were going for a second. The fire of European
nights was missing and the game lacked the passion we have
come to associate with Anfield clashes.
Fernando Torres is a tremendous player from what we have
seen, but his control let him down on several occasions, he
was hesitant and missed a glorious first-half chance.
The anticipation of Chelsea being forced to defend
frantically after half time never materialised and, in fact,
the visitors often looked more positive.
The game was really about those missed chances – Cole had
one he fluffed in the first half, as did Dirk Kuyt before he
opened the scoring – and two defensive mistakes.
Frank Lampard was guilty for our goal and, while John Arne
Riise headed into his own net late into stoppage time, the
ball should never have been allowed to be crossed in the
The worse part for Riise about his own goal was that, as a
left back, the ball came over on his right side and he
obviously didn’t trust the idea of kicking it clear with his
right foot. The headed option proved incorrect, but at that
stage of the game we should have been looking to put the
ball down into the Chelsea corners, not allowing the cross
to come in.
Some people thought the tie was like a game of chess. I
thought it was more like Scrabble!
We need to go down there and get a quick goal and put them
under pressure. We are not in the driving seat now, but we
have to draw them out a little more to create more space
than we managed to do last night.
Stamford Bridge is a bit like a fortress. Chelsea have not
lost there for two years, so we have a problem on our hands.
Whether Benitez will change things for the second leg and
possibly give Chelsea more defensive problems by putting
Peter Crouch up front alongside Torres, I don’t know. But,
too often, Torres looked isolated and got little out of John
As the game wore on, you got the impression that Benitez was
happy with the 1-0 which, I think, we all would have been in
the end. But by not scoring a second that could have made
all the difference, we are now chasing the game.
Ultimately, we paid the penalty of sitting back too much as
the second half wore on, inviting Chelsea to attack us.
Cech was obviously the busier of the two keepers and made
good late saves from Gerrard and Torres, but the visitors
kept plugging away and got their reward.
The Reds showed against Arsenal at home that they, like
their visitors, could play exciting football. They will have
to reproduce that away from home now.
Avram Grant’s side have the ability to hold on to what they
have. The Reds must go there and make things happen to upset
Spirit of '81 offers
a belief in Reds' cause
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Rafa Benitez compared his modern Anfield
charges with greats from the Reds illustrious European past
in the build-up to last night's blockbuster.
“In terms of Europe, this is one of the most successful
periods in the club’s history,” he declared. “We won the
UEFA Cup and two European Cups in the late 1970s but this is
the first time we have reached the last four of this
competition with such frequency.”
If the chronology was a little sketchy, the sentiment was
It was 27 years ago when Liverpool last reached the
semi-final of Europe’s most prestigious prize for the third
time in five years. And the Reds boss now needs the spirit
of ’81 like never before.
Not since Ray Kennedy plundered one of the most famous away
goals in Anfield history have Liverpool needed to go away in
a European semi-final and score.
But that’s the task which now confronts them following John
Arne Riise’s heartbreaking 94th minute own goal.
In 1981 it was the intimidating Olympic Stadium in Munich.
This time it’s Stamford Bridge – a stadium where Chelsea
haven’t lost for two years and Liverpool haven’t scored
under Rafael Benitez.
But there are lies, damned lies – and then statistics.
“We will change that statistic,” declared the Reds boss,
with a defiant grin.
And on last night’s evidence, you wouldn’t argue.
Stamford Bridge is not a cauldron; Chelsea are not Bayern
Munich; they’re not even as accomplished a team as they were
in 2005 – and Avram Grant is not a master tactician.
Frank Lampard and Joe Cole are toiling for form, Liverpool
will almost certainly give their big guns this weekend off,
while Chelsea face another high intensity occasion against
Manchester United on Saturday.
There are reasons aplenty for Liverpool to lift their
crushed hearts off the canvas and go again.
The Reds can go to the capital and score a goal – just like
they did at The Emirates.
The only fear is that Lady Luck has finally chosen to smile
on the Londoners after two losing semi-finals. Because last
night only pure bad fortune – plus a left-back’s
unwillingness to swing his right boot – were the factors
which conspired against Liverpool.
John Arne Riise may not even have been on the pitch had the
outrageously unlucky Fabio Aurelio not succumbed to an
adductor muscle injury.
But it was the Norwegian’s head – 40 seconds over the
allotted four minutes of time added on – which deflected
Chelsea’s second on target effort of the evening past Pepe
Benitez’s acute disappointment was surely the reason for his
churlish dissection of referee Konrad Plautz’s performance.
“Why four minutes of added time?” he asked.
Four substitutions, a yellow card and a lengthy stoppage,
then a stretcher for Fabio Aurelio, would be the obvious
And while Ashley Cole used two hands to shove Dirk Kuyt in
front of the Kop, Jamie Carragher failed to get a touch on
the ball when he slid in to bundle Didier Drogba to the
ground – perhaps the only time Chelsea’s giant pantomime
dame hit the deck with good cause.
No, Liverpool weren’t undone by the match officials.
They were thwarted by a monumental performance by Petr Cech.
If Tom Hicks had really wanted to prove he was a
Liverpudlian, he might have kicked the giant keeper as the
pair passed in the lobby of the Malmaison, the swish city
centre hotel Chelsea shared with the Americans ahead of last
Three times Cech spectacularly denied Liverpool – perhaps
most crucially of all in the 93rd minute from Fernando
Barely 60 seconds later, Chelsea had claimed the away goal
they scarcely deserved.
A lack of ruthlessness in front of goal was the only
disappointing aspect of Liverpool’s performance.
Even off the pitch the focus was impressive.
The unwanted Americans took their place alongside the rival
DIC camp in the Anfield Directors’ Box, but you would hardly
have known they were there. There were no banners, no
anti-American chants – all efforts were admirably focused on
the action on the pitch.
Bar a handful of unruly urchins offering two-fingered
salutes in front of the Directors’ Box, the only
acknowledgement the Americans were even inside the stadium
came deep in the second half when a member of the Hicks
party caught the match ball as it was tossed back towards
There were a smattering of boos from the Kop.
Then, in the 89th minute, when another famous victory looked
to have been assured, the famous La Bamba Rafa song rang
around the stadium – and many fans couldn’t help but turn to
make sure that the men who at one-time had planned his
removal had taken note.
Many of those rubber-neckers weren’t around when Carlos
Rexach last managed an away goal in a European semi-final at
That gave Barcelona a 1-1 draw and apparently a place in the
UEFA Cup final. But the class of ’76 secured an incredible
away result in the Nou Camp.
Benitez is right when he claims: “In terms of Europe, this
is one of the most successful periods in the club’s
Now Liverpool must go away from home and prove it.
team can score anywhere
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Dirk Kuyt is confident Liverpool will
continue their record of scoring in every European away game
this season when they travel to Stamford Bridge next week.
The Reds must find the net in south-west London after
Chelsea grabbed a last-gasp away goal at Anfield on Tuesday
Though the 1-1 scoreline gives Avram Grant's side an
advantage going into the second leg, Liverpool goalscorer
Kuyt thinks the tie is still anyone's.
He told the club's official website: "We are disappointed
but we are ready for next week. People are talking about us
not scoring at Stamford Bridge for a long time but you could
look at the positive of us scoring in every Champions League
away game this season.
"We scored in Milan, we scored at the Emirates. We know we
can score next week."
Liverpool had the better of the first leg and could have
entered the final stages with a two-goal advantage but for
the excellence of Petr Cech.
Kuyt added: "We controlled the game until the 90th minute
but you have to be focused all game long. It was really
disappointing, as was the fact we didn't score more than one
"But, you know, it's two games you have to play. At the end
of the game maybe they were thinking they were already in
the final but I am sure that's not the case.
"We know what we can do. It will be more difficult but we
have a strong belief we can reach the final. A 1-0 scoreline
would have been excellent but for me it's still 50:50.
"We know we were better than them. We created more chances
but sometimes football is like that."
Kuyt has now scored in every round of this season's
Champions League, including crucial strikes against
Marseille, Arsenal and Inter Milan.
The Dutchman insists he'd swap every one of these
picture-book moments for a plane ticket to Moscow.
"I love to score important goals but I would give away all
my goals to reach the final," he said.
Carragher: Don't blame Riise
Jame Carragher says Liverpool must take
collective blame for conceding late on in the Champions
League clash with Chelsea at Anfield.
It was John Arne Riise who handed the Blues a lifeline in
the semi-final when his last-gasp own goal ensured the first
leg ended 1-1 at Anfield.
But Carragher says he and his team-mates must share the
blame for failing to hang on after Dirk Kuyt had put them
He told Liverpool's official website: "It was just bad luck.
We've all been there, all done something like that. There's
no blame attached to John.
"I think a couple of things happened before that and there
were a couple of things we could have done to stop the cross
even coming in. It's a team game, we are all in it
Liverpool have yet to score at Stamford Bridge under Rafa
Benitez and they know that must change next Wednesday if
they're to reach the final in Moscow in May.
Carragher added: "Obviously when you concede as late as we
did you're going to be disappointed but we've got a massive
game now and it's only like it being 1-1 at half-time. We've
just got to get on with it.
"We've got to regroup but it's only half-time. They're
obviously delighted, you could see that at the end, but
there is another game to go yet."
Liverpool have enough to upset
the odds and beat Chelsea
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
If only Chelsea were as easy to shrug off
as police advice.
With supporters channelling their energies into hoisting
their heroes up amongst the European gods once more, the
nearly men of West London again found themselves being
ushered closer to another semi-final exit door.
Until John Arne Riise used his head to forcefully slam it
shut once again.
But even that calamitous injury-time own goal couldn’t
stifle the singing and the insistence – however optimistic
it looks now – that “we shall not be moved”.
In that sense Tom Hicks, like choosing Sky camera angles,
positioned himself perfectly last night – even if the
Merseyside constabulary wouldn’t agree.
The Texan, like all figures of opposition on European nights
of Anfield, couldn’t escape the firing line completely – he
even loaded his own bullets by taking his seat 10 minutes
There were fingers pointed, mostly in quite offensive
formations, during You’ll Never Walk Alone.
There was booing when one of the Hicks party stood up to
field Pepe Reina’s wild clearance, which only got louder
when they completed the catch instead of copping one full in
But for one night only Hicks was in general unison with the
It may be for very different reasons to the majority, but he
wants Chelsea to go the same way as Rick Parry – out.
So like Claude Makelele to Steven Gerrard, the eyes, and
indeed voices, were trained one only thing – giving Anfield
the perfect send-off as it closes business for the 2008
European Cup run.
It seemed to have the desired effect for so long but the
fact that it failed to inspire a bigger lead or repel that
late heartbreak, won’t diminish the belief.
Especially as it’s still too close to call once again.
Lampard: We deserved luck
By Chris Burton - Sky Sports
Frank Lampard insists that Chelsea did
enough to earn a draw against Liverpool at Anfield on
The Blues needed a late own goal from Reds defender John
Arne Riise to snatch a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their
UEFA Champions League semi-final.
That crucial away goal could prove to be the turning point
in the tie ahead of next Wednesday's second meeting at
Stamford Bridge, and Lampard feels that the fortunate
lifeline which has been handed to them was just reward for
all their hard work on Merseyside.
"The home tie in the second leg was only going to be a
benefit to us if we got the right result here, and that late
goal has obviously made it a much better result," the
midfielder told Sky Sports.
"I think we deserved that little bit of luck. We could have
had a penalty, and in the years before we haven't had much
luck here and if you keep going and working hard you get
that little bit of luck."
Lampard also admitted after the game that a one stage last
week his involvement in the European encounter had looked
The England international has been keeping a bedside vigil
beside his seriously ill mother for the last week, and only
made himself available for the game after a slight
improvement in her condition.
"This time last week was very bleak," revealed Lampard.
"I won't go into details but we were getting a very bleak
outlook. That was the hardest moment for me in my life.
"I am very lucky because I have a very tough mum, who is a
very good person, and I think that might be what is helping
her at the minute.
"Three days ago I wasn't playing in my mind. But we got some
decent news on Saturday afternoon and my head came round a
little bit then. I made a decision to go in training on
Sunday to see how I felt.
"The manager and the club have been fantastic and have not
put any pressure on me whatsoever. I just felt I could come
and play and in a way the training and the playing has
helped to take my mind off things, whereas last week I was
in a bad situation.
"I trained yesterday (Monday) and I will be honest I wasn't
in the greatest of shape. I have been in better shape for
games both mentally and physically but it has been a very
Bridge is not
too far for Benitez
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes
his side can overcome their Stamford Bridge hoodoo and still
reach the club's third Champions League final in four
seasons following their 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Anfield.
The Reds have never scored at the Bridge under Benitez, but
they know the must do so now to salvage this semi-final.
Benitez said: "Yes, I realise we have not scored a goal at
Chelsea in the Champions League over the past four seasons.
But there is always a first time.
"If we play as well as we did in the first leg and take the
chances we created, we will get to the final."
Liverpool were ahead in the first half through a Dirk Kuyt
goal, but saw their prized victory snatched from them in the
fifth minute of injury-time by a John Arne Riise own goal.
With an away goal to their name, Chelsea must now be
considered favourites to complete the job next Wednesday and
reach the May 21st final in Moscow.
Benitez said: "We must now be positive and clear our minds.
If we play like that at Stamford Bridge next week and take
those chances, we will go through.
"We have confidence in ourselves. I am confident we can do
it, I will recall the first 20 minutes of the second period
when we were very much on top of Chelsea.
"If we can do that again at Stamford Bridge, we can still
get to the final."
Benitez was critical of Austrian referee Konrad Plautz for
giving so much added time.
He was also upset by the stream of free-kicks awarded by the
official - who also refereed the group-stage home defeat by
Marseille - against his side.
The Spaniard added: "It was a difficult match and I was very
disappointed with the referee. This was not the first time.
"We knew what to expect because we'd had him before against
Marseille. He gave just one minute injury-time in the first
period and four in the second - it was hard to understand.
"All the free-kicks seemed to go against us. The first four
free-kicks against us were for pushing, and then when one of
their players (Ashley Cole) pushes one of our players in the
back with both hands in the box, there's nothing.
"But we cannot blame the referee for our missed chances. We
had at least four clear opportunities, and we must score
Benitez also confirmed that he had held brief talks with
co-owner Tom Hicks yesterday ahead of the first leg.
He said: "I had a short discussion with Tom Hicks, and the
idea now is to set up a meeting involving both owners so we
can discuss the future. I believe that is possible and can
Wily Hicks joins the Anfield chorus
line at Liverpool against Chelsea
By John Edwards - Daily Mail
Rafa Benitez has always insisted there is
nothing to compare with the Kop in full voice.
Their favourite anthem must have been music to his ears as
it filled Anfield in the build-up to Liverpool's third
Champions' League semi-final in four seasons.
In an instant, any misgivings the Liverpool manager might
have harboured about Moscow ambitions being derailed by
crowd hostility towards visiting co-owner Tom Hicks were
Slightly more than an instant, if truth be known. For a good
five minutes, chorus after chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone
rang out, and the tone was set for another evening when
trying to relay a message even to the seat next door proved
an exercise in futility.
Benitez had backed Liverpool's vociferous supporters to save
anti-American sentiments for another day and lend their lung
power to the task in hand — and they did not disappoint him.
The feedback from fans' websites shows that they have not
been taken in by Hicks' transparent attempts to win them
Fair play to the wily old Texan, though, he does try.
Police cautioned against his first Anfield visit since
December and added that, should he choose to risk life and
limb, he would be well advised to sit out of harm's way.
Both warnings were ignored as he breezed in through the main
entrance — flanked only by son Tom Jnr, rather than a
security posse — and took a front row seat 10 minutes before
It was the moment the media had been waiting for.
An opportunity to discover the true level of animosity
towards the 62-year old.
But his entrance coincided with Chelsea's team being read
out, and it was impossible to be sure whose name was on the
cascade of booing. Hicks remained undaunted.
As the Kop broke into their extended rendition of You'll
Never Walk Alone, he stood up, held his red and white scarf
aloft and joined in every line. Been on the Google search
engine again, Tom?
Yet when it comes to causing ructions, his estranged partner
George Gillett could hardly be considered blameless.
After taking Hicks to task over an outburst that was
perceived as ill-timed, coming so close to Liverpool's
biggest game of the season, what did Gillett do to restore
Only invited the other participants in an endless three-way
power battle, Dubai International Capital, to trail along as
special guests. Illness prevented George attending, but son
Foster did the honours, while former Liverpool chairman
David Moores and chief executive Rick Parry forsook their
usual front row vantage point to stay a safe distance from
Hicks, three rows behind him.
Demand for tickets in the directors' box for the boardroom
bun fight was such that Sven Goran Eriksson and Alex
McLeish, England and Scotland managers of the recent past,
had to settle for seats alongside each other in the
overspill section of the press area.
As he looked down at the bank of cameras, Manchester City
boss Eriksson might have mused that life under Thaksin
Shinawatra wasn't so bad after all.
Once the match started, though, he may well have had second
thoughts, such was the noise generated on another
electrifying European night at Anfield.
There really is nothing to compare, and there were
suggestions, three years ago, that Chelsea may have been
affected by the din.
They coped well enough third time round, though, and were
rewarded in the dying seconds when an own goal wiped out
Dirk Kuyt's opener.
Lady Luck turns
her back on Reds
TEAMtalk feels Lady Luck finally turned
her back on Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final,
and courted Chelsea at Anfield instead.
An intense but ultimately dour affair, with two opponents
apparently content to merely scrap for the huge prize on
offer - and that was just Rick Parry and Tom Hicks in the
The annual march of Liverpool and Chelsea to the Champions
League semi-finals has been a victory for pragmatism if
nothing else and that approach was exemplified by the first
leg at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Any neutrals could be forgiven for secretly hoping that
whichever of these sides makes it to the final in Moscow -
and after Chelsea's last-gasp equaliser the balance is
tilted firmly in their favour - either Manchester United or
Barcelona will provide the flair to win in style.
We knew what to expect of course, for neither of the
previous meetings at this stage were classics in terms of
the quality of the football, just in terms of intensity.
With the stakes so high, this was all about commitment,
passion and hoping for the rub of the green.
Chelsea have not enjoyed that in their past encounters -
just ask Jose Mourinho about that Luis Garcia goal back in
2005 - but they won back a large chunk of luck through John
Arne Riise's own goal in the 95th minute.
It was barely deserved, for even if the match had been short
on chances as well as panache, Liverpool had by far the
better of them.
An off-day for Fernando Torres, and there have been precious
few of those this season, arrived at just the wrong time for
Three times he appeared destined to write a new chapter in
his Anfield fairy-tale, but each time was found lacking.
First, put through by Steven Gerrard into the sort of
position you would expect him to finish from every time, the
Spaniard appeared to lack conviction and made it all too
easy for Petr Cech.
Then a lofted ball over the defence found him with a clear
run on goal but his first touch was so awful that Chelsea
were able to recover.
Finally, an admittedly difficult opportunity deep in injury
time was once more saved by Cech and Chelsea stormed up the
other end to force that equaliser.
Benitez looked like a man who had swallowed his pen, a look
of pure disbelief that Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa
had allowed Salomon Kalou to fire in a cross when he seemed
to be trapped in the corner, and then for Riise to head it
unerringly into his own net.
Until that moment it had been very much as planned by
Benitez as Chelsea's offensive forces, especially Joe Cole,
Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, had an off day.
Liverpool's goal was a microcosm of the whole match, a
combination of mistakes by Lampard and Claude Makelele
leading to Dirk Kuyt bundling the ball into the net through
The rest was eminently forgettable apart from those Torres
chances and a fizzing volley from Gerrard.
Benitez tried to make an issue about the time allowed at the
end of the second half compared to the first but that was
just clutching at straws.
The truth was that Liverpool's luck - that has held fast in
these contests with Chelsea each time before - had finally
We controlled it
By Joseph Caron Dawe - Setanta Sports
Avram Grant rued the mistake which gave
Liverpool their goal in his Chelsea side’s Champions League
semi-final, first leg draw at Anfield on Tuesday and said
his side ‘controlled the game’.
The Israeli watched on as Dirk Kuyt capitalised on some
hesitant defending to put The Reds 1-0 up before half time,
before substitute Salomon Kalou’s cross deep into injury
time was turned into his own net by John Arne Riise to
salvage a 1-1 draw and snatch a valuable away goal.
“It was a great result. It was a game where the two goals
were mistakes,” said Grant. “For my opinion we controlled
the game and then we made a mistake and they scored.
“We made some changes in the second half and played a
different system and it got a result for us.”
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard echoed his boss’s
sentiments and said he thought the last-gasp goal was no
more than his side deserved.
“I think we deserved to get the draw at the end,” said the
England international. “They had chances and we did and we
started the game very well. It was a battle and we carried
on until the end. Credit to Salomon Kalou who came on and
put a great ball in, and I think we deserved that.”
Petr Cech turned in an impressive display in goal for The
Blues, denying Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard efforts,
and both Lampard and Grant sung the stopper’s praises.
“I think he was fantastic,” said Lampard on ITV1. “For us
he’s the best keeper in the world. He showed that and showed
“He’s the unluckiest man in the world with his injuries. But
he keeps coming back and when he does he’s even better.”
Grant added: “He was good, he was unlucky with the goal
between the legs. He made some good saves but it’s Petr,
we’re used to it.”
Chelsea grab vital away goal
By Joseph Caron Dawe - Setanta Sports
A John Arne Riise own goal in injury time
handed Chelsea a vital away goal in their Champions League
semi-final, first leg with Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday
as the sides drew 1-1.
Dirk Kuyt put Liverpool a goal up in front of The Kop two
minutes before half time after Chelsea had started the game
brightly, and both sides had chances to add to the scoreline
as the match progressed with each having a penalty appeal
Joe Cole squandered an opportunity in the first half, as did
Kuyt early on before the Dutchman capitalised on a muddled
Chelsea defence to give his side the lead going into the
The Reds came out strong for the second half but the balance
swung their opponents’ way towards the end of the game, and
Gerrard almost added a second to his side’s tally with a
volley that was tipped over by Petr Cech after Florent
Malouda and Frank Lampard had both had chances to level for
Fernando Torres fired a far-post effort straight into Cech’s
body in injury time as Liverpool went ever so close to
gaining a two-goal advantage, and it seemed the as if home
side were heading towards a first-leg victory before drama
struck in the dying seconds.
Salomon Kalou’s cross in the fourth minute of added time was
headed into his own net by Riise, under pressure in his own
area with Nicolas Anelka lurking and panicked into action.
Unfortunately for the Norwegian his stooping header flew
into the roof of his own net.
The result handed Avram Grant the away goal at Anfield at
this stage of the competition that his predecessor Jose
Mourinho was unable to garner in two attempts during his
time in charge, although whether that will have any effect
on his fate come the end of the season remains to be seen.
Chelsea made the more assured of starts to the game as
Didier Drogba initiated his battle with Jamie Carragher –
preferred by Rafa Benitez to Sami Hyypia at centre back – as
the pair tussled early on with the Ivorian winning a
free-kick, and little time on the ball was afforded to
either side as the midfield area became a tightly-patrolled
Malouda tested his shooting range with an effort that was
deflected off Carragher for a corner and Liverpool edged
their way more convincingly into contention as Kuyt was
presented with a great chance to rattle off a shot on 13
minutes. A long Xabi Alonso pass – perfectly weighted and
dropped right onto the Dutchman’s chest – was touched too
heavily by the eventual goalscorer and that allowed Cech
just enough time to fly out and block a toe-poked effort.
With that signal that the game could be opened up with a
single damaging pass, Lampard – returning for Chelsea after
missing two games – then played a similarly impressive one
into Joe Cole, but the midfielder’s mind was clearly divided
between taking a volley on the full and trying to find
Drogba in support, neither outcome coming to fruition. That
came after the striker had fizzed a low ball across the face
of goal which his team-mate was unable to meet.
The tension mounted on the half-hour mark when Drogba went
down under a Carragher challenge right on the edge of
Liverpool’s area, a clash that Austrian referee Konrad
Plautz deemed unworthy even of a free-kick. Moments later at
the other end Fernando Torres went close to opening the
The Spaniard was played in by a superb first-time pass on
the bounce from Steven Gerrard, and through one-on-one with
Cech The Reds’ top scorer took perhaps one touch too many
before firing into the Chelsea keeper’s legs.
That was forgotten three minutes before the break though as
Liverpool did take the lead when a quickly-taken Alonso
free-kick found Kuyt down the right flank. His delivery was
a poor one which John Terry had little trouble in heading
away – a clearance which found Lampard. His dithering in
possession was punished severely though.
Javier Mascherano’s mis-hit shot sliced up into the air and
amidst some indecisive defending from Claude Makelele the
ball dropped to Kuyt, who drove it through Cech’s legs for a
half-time advantage that sent Anfield into raptures.
The goal clearly took Liverpool’s self belief to the next
level and Benitez’s men were straight at their opponents
from the very start of the second half.
Torres checked inside a Ricardo Carvalho challenge inside
the Chelsea area but was foiled by an alert Makelele, and
then Alonso had a shot deflected wide after good work down
the left from Ryan Babel as Liverpool sensed they needed to
make their spell of dominance count.
Babel so very nearly did that on the hour when he came in
off the left and swerved a sumptuous volley not far wide of
Cech’s left post from 20 yards, and there was a blow for the
home side when Fabio Aurelio was stretchered off with a
groin injury shortly after.
The injury proved something of a curse for The Reds as after
that Chelsea enjoyed their most consistent of attacking
spells. First, Malouda played a pass just behind Drogba on
the edge of the Liverpool area and then Lampard’s touch was
far too ample as he cut inside a Martin Skrtel challenge
when meeting a Drogba pass but ran out of pitch.
That was punctuated by a Liverpool penalty appeal when
Carragher crossed into Michael Ballack’s arm, but it was
back up the other end straight away as The Blues continued
to try and keep alive their offensive phase. Chelsea’s
German midfielder directed a header from a free-kick
straight at Jose Reina and Malouda was guilty of delaying
his shot for too long as Mascherano slid in to block when
the Frenchman was poised to hit the target from close range.
The visitors continued to plunder forward as the second half
reached the final quarter-of-an-hour but poor delivery let
them down on numerous occasions, and Carragher put in a
vital challenge on Lampard with the England international
set to pull the trigger inside the final 10 minutes after
Kalou teed him up.
Terry was adjudged to have fouled Reina under a high ball
when it was more a case of six of one, half a dozen of the
other inside a frantic Liverpool area as time crept on, and
at the other end Cech denied Gerrard with a fine fingertip
save that prevented a similarly eye-catching volley from the
edge of the 18-yard area.
Liverpool fans were on the edge of their seat inside the
87th minute when Gerrard freed Torres but the Spaniard’s
first touch was poor – a clear run-in on goal awaited him
otherwise, and the striker then fired straight at Cech at
the far post as a corner dropped to him late on.
The game then took its twist as Riise put through his own
net late in the day to ensure Chelsea secured a crucial away
goal, which sets the tie up for an intriguing return leg at
Stamford Bridge next Wednesday.