After The Match 


Chelsea-Liverpool 3-2 aet. (1-1)     Sun Feb 27.      Carling Cup - final
Goals: Riise (1), Nunez (113)
Gerrard (og 79), Drogba (107), Kezman (111)
Team: Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Riise, Gerrard, Hamann, Morientes, Garcia, Kewell
Subs: Nunez (Kewell 57), Biscan (Traore 67), Baros (Morientes 74)
Not used: Carson, Pellegrino
Yellow: Hyypia, Traore, Hamann, Carragher
Lampard, Drogba, Duff, Kezman
Red: None
Referee: Steve Bennett
Attendance: 71,622

                           MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 10-6
Shots off target: 10-5
Fouls conceded: 16-23
Corners: 8-2
Yellow: 4-4




"...the players
must be proud..."
         Rafael Benitez


2802: Rafa's dignity overshadows Jose's mad...
2802: Gerrard future not decided by Cardiff loss
2702: Gerrard down after OG
2702: No regrets for Jose
2702: Rafa: We were unlucky
2702: Chelsea triumph in thriller

Rafa's dignity overshadows
Jose's mad moments

By Echo Sports Editor John Thompson - Liverpool Echo

Almost felt sorry for Jose Mourinho as he bathed in the afterglow of Chelsea's victory at the Millennium Stadium last night.

Or rather, did anything but. He started well enough, when asked about his analysis of the dramatic match which had just concluded.

He said his players deserved their win. Liverpool worked tremendously hard to keep his side out. They were organised and valiant, as you'd expect from a Benitez team, and he felt sorry for them. But the better team, which had enjoyed much more possession and which kept going until it got its reward, came through.

A fair enough assessment. And then . . .

Flanked by his spin doctor, one foot clambering onto the podium of the private, untelevised press conference, a British journalist asked him to explain why he put his finger to his lips at the Liverpool fans behind him.

Cue one of those 'If looks could kill' moments from the Portuguese Man o' War. How dare he ask that! "No, no I was gesturing to the press," Mourinho insisted, teeth clenching and brow furrowing even more now as it was then pointed out the press were actually on the other side of the stadium.

And when asked why he later waved at the Liverpool fans, his explanation was that he was waving to his wife.

Clearly in a spin himself, the concerned manager's minder intervened constantly to insist these were the real reasons behind behaviour which saw a British team's manager sent to the stands in a major cup final like a naughty boy to his bedroom.

Good job nobody mentioned his string of expletives aimed at Jamie Carragher during the game. Presumably, the answer would have been: "No, no I just said 'Fair cop, fair cop'.

When Mourinho suggested he might fight the pressman who dared ask him such impudent questions, I prepared for him to blow and leap at him.

I was in the middle of row one for this semi-private after-match sideshow, as close as anyone to him, and believe me, he seemed that angry, that ready to explode.

Here was a manager who should have been enjoying the moment, not being tortured and tormented by it. He should have been accepting congratulations, not sitting there spitting mad.

But that, perhaps, is Mourinho's problem.

Like a spoilt child always seeking attention and demanding his own way, it seems he wants to be the story.

He is a great football manager, of that there is no doubt. Forget Chelsea now buying the title and other trophies as Abramovich feeds him with everything he wants. Mourinho won a Champions League and a UEFA Cup with a little known Portuguese side who didn't enjoy such riches. His ability as a boss is beyond doubt in that respect.

But contrast his big-day behaviour to that of Benitez, who had taken the same platform moments earlier.

He looked bitterly disappointed as he entered, but refused to blame his players or his captain, telling journalists he was proud of their efforts but so upset for them and the supporters who he praised so highly.

Despite his detectable pain, Benitez was a picture of dignity in defeat.

What followed was absolute and stark in comparison.

In rolled the winner, no sense of pleasure or pride in his players. Detached and distant from their achievement - just as he was when he ripped his Champions League medal from his neck in Germany and left them behind to head for the tunnel.

This display at Cardiff was so much worse. Jose Mourinho shamed himself, his club and the game of football yesterday when he had every opportunity and every right to do exactly the opposite.

He's got what he deep down obviously wants - all the headlines himself today.

And it doesn't make pretty reading.

Gerrard future not decided by Cardiff loss

By Alan Hansen - BBC Sport football expert

Steven Gerrard's own goal in Liverpool's Carling Cup defeat against Chelsea sparked yet another round of speculation about his Anfield future.

There was no denying the irony of Gerrard's mishap, coming as it did in a cup final against the club that almost paid 30m for him last summer.

And that irony was not missed by the media - or indeed Chelsea's supporters.

But to suggest the incident, and the defeat, will shape whether he stays or goes from Liverpool, is wrong.

It was just one of those things that could have happened anywhere at any time, in any place and in any game.

It wasn't even a mistake, although you could say the mistake was in three Liverpool defenders going for the same ball.

But to pull together a sub-plot or conspiracy theory that the own goal, combined with Liverpool's defeat, has finally put Gerrard on the road to Stamford Bridge is nonsense.

It was inevitable that because it came against Chelsea, there would be speculation, but I believe Gerrard will be concentrating on one thing and one thing alone.

And that is ensuring Liverpool qualify for the Champions League by getting that fourth place in the Premiership.

I don't think any decision has been made, and will certainly not be influenced by anything that happened in Cardiff on Sunday.

Liverpool must hope they clinch fourth place and that is enough to persuade their massively influential captain to stay.

From Liverpool's point of view, the defeat was a bitter disappointment, but when the disappointment has subsided, they can take heart from a week of encouragement both at home and abroad.

Liverpool had an excellent win against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, when they got it down, played and scored goals.

And in Sunday's Carling Cup final, they showed real defensive resilience when they were pinned back for long periods.

I think Rafael Benitez is on the right lines and speaks with a lot of confidence about his team and what he wants from them.

But there is no doubt Liverpool's next two games will shape their season, at Newcastle away in the league and then Bayer away in the Champions League second leg.

What they cannot afford to do is produce any performances like they produced at Burnley, Southampton or Birmingham.

If they slip up at Newcastle then Everton beat Blackburn 24 hours later, that will be an 11-point gap and that's an awful long way back for them in the race for the Champions League place.

There is added spice because Everton are fourth. They had an impressive win at Aston Villa, and you cannot take away from them what they have done.

They've had an uncertain spell recently, but they've picked up points here and there and that is a great tribute to manager David Moyes and his players.

And in Tim Cahill, they've paid 2m for a player from outside the Premiership who has proved himself in the top-flight.

Liverpool will still be a massive magnet for top players, but they may also need to seek out the type of signings that Moyes has pulled off with Cahill.

He has been excellent since arriving from Millwall and has been a very sound purchase by Moyes.

While the battle for fourth hots up, Manchester United turned the screw a little tighter on leaders Chelsea by beating Portsmouth and reducing the gap to six points - albeit with a game in hand for Jose Mourinho's side.

The Carling Cup win against Liverpool was massive for Chelsea, because it stopped all the inevitable questions that would have been posed if they had lost three games in a week.

I don't think they answered all the questions, because for all their long periods of possession they were struggling to score until Gerrard's unfortunate intervention.

Obviously a lot of focus has been centred on Mourinho for events on and off the pitch, but I think he will be more than happy with that because it means the heat is taken off his players.

If people are asking questions about the manager, they are leaving the players in peace, so Mourinho will settle for that.

And while United are showing once again there is no-one better when it comes to the chase, I don't think there is any shift in the balance of power in the Premiership.

It is all Chelsea's to lose, with a six-point lead and a game in hand. Throw in that their next four league games are against the bottom four sides in the table, and you can see they are in a strong position.

They must keep their eye on the ball because Manchester United are masters of this situation - but the balance of power still lies with Chelsea.

Gerrard down after OG

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits that Sunday's Carling Cup Final defeat to Chelsea was a bitter pill to swallow.

The influential England midfielder scored an own goal with just over ten minutes remaining, to take the game into extra time.

Chelsea prevailed in the second period of extra time, with Gerrard left desolate at the final whistle.

"Losing cup finals and scoring an own goal is a bad day for myself," Gerrard said.

"But I'll look forward to the next game now.

"We scored early on and tried to see the clock out because we were 15 minutes away from lifting the cup.

"But credit to Chelsea they came back and deserved the win."

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has told his skipper that he should be proud of his efforts, along with the rest of his team-mates.

"I have talked to Steven and to all the players and said to them they must be proud,'' concluded Benitez.

''If you run, if you work, if you try your hardest you cannot do more.

"It's a pity for the team, it's a pity for the supporters because they are perhaps the best in England, and the players did their best so you cannot say anything except that they must be proud."

No regrets for Jose

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Jose Mourinho insists he has no regrets despite being sent off in Chelsea's 3-2 success over Liverpool in the Carling Cup Final.

The cocksure Portuguese tactician was sent from the Chelsea bench after being seen putting his finger to his lips, directly in front of Liverpool fans, following Steven Gerrard's own goal that sent the game into extra time.

Mourinho was forced to watch the rest of the game from a TV room inside the stadium but despite the hindrance caused, the Chelsea chief remains defiant in his attitude.

Chelsea's ability to last the course this season has been questioned after two defeats in recent weeks, with Mourinho claiming his 'silence' gesture was directed towards the media and not Liverpool's travelling supporters.

"I don't regret it (his actions)," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"The only thing I have to understand is I'm in England, I have to adapt, so maybe even when I think I am not wrong I have to adapt to your country and I have to respect that.

"I have a lot of respect for Liverpool fans and what I did, the sign of silence, 'shut your mouth', was not for them it was for the English press.

"They speak too much because Chelsea lost two matches in a week (the FA Cup defeat at Newcastle and the UEFA Champions League loss to Barcelona).

"In my opinion you (the media) try to do everything to disturb Chelsea and try to take some confidence from us.

"The sign was for you (the press). Don't speak too soon. We have the first title and almost for sure we will have the second one.''

Mourinho also denied that he was feeling pressure and dismissed the comments made by his managerial rivals in recent weeks.

"I'm not feeling the pressure. I have read a lot of times this week I have to prove a lot in English football," he added.

"Sir Alex is the only European champion in this country so I have to prove what?

"I'm very happy not just for me. For me it is not so important but for the fans, the club and the players - especially for the players who were in the squad for a few years without silverware.

"It is very difficult to win for the first time."

Rafa: We were unlucky

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes his side were unfortunate to miss out on the Carling Cup after a pulsating game in Cardiff.

Chelsea needed extra time to eventually claim the silverware and were it not for a Steven Gerrard own goal 12 minutes from time, Benitez would have been returning to Merseyside with his first trophy in English football.

The Spanish chief believes his side were not outplayed by their West London counterparts and that on another day, they would have finished off Chelsea
at 1-0.

"If you have clear chances at 1-0, if you get a second goal you finish the game,'' Benitez told Sky Sports.

''We made mistakes and in the end we conceded a goal.

"I said to the players we must be proud, we have had a good game, they controlled the game but we were organised as a team and had opportunities.

''It is difficult to play against Chelsea, but we scored two goals and worked hard.

"I think that after the game we need to analyse things, the players must be proud - they had a good game."

Chelsea triumph in thriller

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Chelsea's new era under the ownership of Roman Abramovich and the management of Jose Mourinho has yielded its first silverware after an engrossing 3-2 success over Liverpool in the Carling Cup final.

Liverpool had looked to have earned Rafa Benitez his first trophy in English football when John Arne Riise struck after just 45 seconds but an own goal from Steven Gerrard took the game into a pulsating period of extra time.

Goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman put a tentative blue hand on the trophy before Antonio Nunez caused palpatations for those in West London with a late strike of his own.

Managerial talk this season has primarily revolved around the musings of Mourinho but in Cardiff it was his counterpart, Benitez that landed the first tactical surprise.

Harry Kewell, a player who has languished at Anfield through injury and a lack of form, having only just returned from a prolonged spell on the sidelines was handed a start - Milan Baros left looking glum on the bench.

Liverpool crowded the midfield from the onset and with Chelsea, for once, lacking cohesion, Benitez's side went for the throat of Mourinho's men early.

From the kick-off, when Luis Garcia failed to spot Riise drifting free off the left channel, the Norwegian looked disgusted at his Spanish team-mate.

Chelsea, and in particular Paulo Ferreira, would not heed the warning. After Garcia lost possession, Fernando Morientes made his way down the right channel but only this time Riise was found.

After Morientes' cross made its way over the head of a ball-watching Ferreira, Riise connected gloriously to arch an arrow of a hit across the body of Petr Cech to send the red half of Cardiff into ecstasy and further sink those in blue.

Chelsea without Arjen Robben have become somewhat of a bird with clipped wings and at times in the first period, the explosive pace and penetration he offers was sorely missed.

Having ascertained a lead so early, Liverpool were caught in a quandary of whether to sit or to continue with a positive pressing game.

For the most part they found a suitable balance between the two, as while Chelsea bossed possession, Liverpool were thunderous in the tackle and not without wit when breaking.

It would take 20 minutes before Jerzy Dudek was called into action, clasping on to a Frank Lampard free kick hit with power but too straight to ever cause real consternation.

Gerrard, fresh from an enforced absence in midweek, looked pleadingly at referee Steve Bennett after being hauled down by Claude Makelele in the penalty area on the half hour mark, before at the opposite end, Chelsea conjured their best chance.

A previously peripheral Joe Cole showed a glimpse of his maverick capabilities with a cute through ball but when closing on goal, Drogba could only stab into the body of Dudek for a corner.

From the resulting set piece John Terry found Lampard but his towering header was cleared off the line by Garcia.

As the half drew to its close, the Premiership leaders began to grind out control with some sharp passing but created little in terms of genuine opportunities.

Chelsea's lack of guile in the final third had not gone unnoticed on the bench and it came as no surprise when Mourinho summoned Eidur Gudjohnsen to replace surprise inclusion Jiri Jarosik at half time.

The tempo was immediately upped in the second period, with Mourinho animated on the touchline - urging greater and greater exertions from his on-field troops.

With Liverpool retreating deeper, Cole clipped a great cross onto the head of Gudjohnsen but from the Icelander's connection Dudek flung himself to his right to save in some style.

From the rebound, William Gallas fired at goal but again the much-maligned Pole was ready to thwart for a corner.

After Kewell was withdrawn for Nunez, Morientes was left as an isolated target man and it was he that was the architect of Liverpool's best move of the second period.

The former Real Madrid favourite disguised an astute pass beyond the Chelsea back-line to find Garcia and from his compatriot's cross, a surprisingly advanced Didi Hamann bent a classy effort with the outside of his right foot but Cech was equal to it to keep Chelsea in contention.

Gallas saw an inviting cross cleared over his own bar by Riise before Ferreira partially atoned for his earlier error by denying Gerrard a certain goal from Nunez's cut-back.

With Chelsea legs looking heavy after a midweek trip to Barcelona, Ferreira swung in a nothing free kick from the right, Gerrard beat Riise in the air to head the ball backwards and beyond his own goalkeeper, for the most unlikely of levellers on 78 minutes.

Mourinho's exertions on the touchline proved too much for the match officials with ten minutes remaining and he was sent off before Dudek again saved his team-mates with a superb stop from Duff after an excellent Lampard pass.

With Liverpool's morale understandably sunk, Chelsea made strides for a winner that saw Duff denied by an important deflection and Lampard ping a snap-shot narrowly over.

On the counter, Baros failed to beat the angle in injury time when he fired a shot over on the stretch from Igor Biscan's lobbed pass.

Extra time mirrored much of what had preceded but whilst the ball spent most of its time in Liverpool's half, it was Hamann that forced the opening period's only save when he tested Cech from distance.

Biscan will also be left ruing an opportunity squandered when he could only power his header over the top from Garcia's cross, following a cleverly worked free kick.

Then came Drogba's first real installment on the investment made for his services by Abramovich. When Sami Hyypia failed to deal with Glen Johnson's long throw, the powerful hit-man cushioned the ball on his knee before poking past Dudek.

With Liverpool broken, Gudjohnsen fired the ball across a crowded box and after a deflection caused panic, substitute Kezman was on hand to stab home for Chelsea's third.

The Carling Cup was in all likelihood already being etched with Chelsea's name when with five minutes remaining, Gerrard's whipped delivery from the left was not dealt with - leaving Nunez to stoop to head over an unsighted Cech.

Liverpool cannot be faulted for their efforts in the final moments but it is Chelsea who remain on course for a Treble, after what was one of the best League Cup finals in its 45-year history.

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Thor Zakariassen