After The Match 


Chelsea-Liverpool 3-2aet (1-1)      30.4.08                          CL
Goals: Torres (64), Babel (116)  
Drogba (32, 105), Lampard (94 pen)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Riise, Mascherano, Alonso, Benayoun, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Hyypia (Skrtel 22), Pennant (Benayoun 77),
Babel (Torres 95)
Not used: Itandje, Finnan, Leiva, Crouch
Yellow: Alonso (41), Arbeloa (96)
Red: None
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Attendance: 38,900
Shots on target: 11-5
Shots off target: 5-4
Blocked shots: 3-6
Fouls conceded: 20-19
Corners: 5-9
Offsides: 8-4
Possession: 44.8-55.2
Yellow: 0-2

to look forward..."
Steven Gerrard

0105: So near - but so far in the final analysis
0105: Heartache and broken dreams
0105: Gerrard wants stronger Reds
3004: Masch: This team will reach many finals
3004: Benitez: We were very close
3004: Grant happy to make history
3004: Chelsea lay to rest Liverpool bogey

So near - but so far in
the final analysis

Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

Rotten soup? Flights costing more than a monthly mortgage repayment, with hotels even dearer?

A police force with all the sensitivity of Josef Stalin, plus two weeks off work to queue for a visa?

Chelsea and Manchester United fans, you’re welcome to it.

Sure, it hurts.

Semi-finals are always the most painful football matches to lose. And Liverpool haven’t experienced that sensation in the European Cup for 43 years.

But with the most expensive venue on the European rota lying in wait, together with United, crushed Kopites can perhaps take some solace from Chelsea finally managing to engineer a way past the Reds into a European final.

A third Champions League final in four seasons would have been a truly astonishing feat even by Liverpool’s remarkable standards.

But the Reds fell short last night. Only fractionally. Only by a single goal after 210 minutes of nerve- shredding action.

But, at this elevated level of football the small details, as Rafael Benitez is so fond of telling us, make all the difference. And the small details were all in Chelsea’s favour last night.

Avram Grant’s big players were enormous from start to finish.

Didier Drogba was inspired, Frank Lampard excellent and Michael Essien simply the most effective player on the pitch.

Liverpool’s big two, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, took 45 minutes to get started, by which time Chelsea had already edged themselves ahead.

The manager, too, has to bear some responsibility. Benitez took a calculated gamble with his pre-match psychology. It failed.

Heartache and broken dreams

Comment by Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo

Jamie Carragher – always seems to produce something special against Chelsea. His goal denying challenge on Drogba deserved to be a match winning intervention.

At least there’s no need to worry about those Russian visas anymore.

Moscow will only be playing host to one Red Army and, after yet another night of agony at Stamford Bridge, it won’t be Liverpool’s.

A combination of fate and self-inflicted wounds left the Reds with nothing but tears for souvenirs – from both this game and the entire season.

There will not now be an eighth European Cup final and there will not now be a showdown with arch rivals Manchester United on the biggest stage of all. In their place is a stinging feeling of what might have been and an all consuming sense of regret.

Chelsea deserve their final place. As everyone at Anfield knows only too well, you simply do not get to the highest echelon of European football without earning that right.

But Liverpool will also know that they were agents in their own downfall, particularly when the only thing that separated the two sides over 210 minutes was John Arne Riise’s calamitous own goal.

The inescapable feeling that this would be Chelsea’s time built from that moment and Liverpool were unable to stop that momentum despite their Herculean efforts.

It was only three years ago that it was Liverpool who had the fates on their side in that incredible run to Istanbul which seemed to have been written in the stars.

In 2005, it was their time and theirs alone as Europe’s greatest sides were vanquished en route to a wonderful fifth European Cup.

This time around, it increasingly seems as if Moscow is Chelsea’s date with destiny, particularly with Roman Abramovich dreaming of a triumphant return to Russia.

And yet Liverpool could have denied the Chelsea owner his much desired homecoming had they not conspired to shoot themselves in the foot with all the regularity of a cock-eyed gunslinger.

Riise set the tone at the end of the first leg with what must now be considered one of the most expensive own goals in football history and from that point on Liverpool seemed hell bent on undermining their chances of a third European Cup Final in just four years by committing the most basic of errors.

In the first half a failure to retain possession on what was a tricky surface cost them dear as Didier Drogba showed that he has more to his game than just diving by slotting home a cool finish after Pepe Reina had done well to deny Salomon Kalou.

As if that was not bad enough, substitute Sami Hyypia, who was only on the pitch because of an injury to Martin Skrtel, let himself down with a poor piece of control which he then compounded by bringing down Michael Ballack.

Frank Lampard then did what fate decreed he would do after a week of personal grief by ramming home the resultant penalty.

Riise then added to his own misery by trying to play Nicolas Anelka off side when he had no right to do so and the Frenchman duly squared for Drogba to tuck away his second of the night.

Those errors were strewn over 120 dramatic minutes and it will gall Liverpool that Chelsea did not have to earn their goals, they were gifted them.

It is so out of character for a team which is renowned in European competition for its resilience and its defensive organisation and because of that it must go down as an off night but it occurred at the worst possible time.

Chelsea dominated the first 45 minutes and were well worth their 1-0 lead at the interval.

Liverpool, by contrast, had failed to get going and could have no complaints that they found themselves in arrears.

But with a banner in the packed away end reminding them that fortune does indeed favour the brave, Liverpool took the game to Chelsea in the second half and their much improved showing was given its reward when Fernando Torres struck after wonderful approach play by Yossi Benayoun.

Having wiped out the memory of Bruno Cheyrou by scoring their first goal under Benitez at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool were immediately released from the psychological shackles which have restrained them at Chelsea for the past four years and as the clock ticked down it was they who looked the more likely winners.

Extra time was the least they deserved for their second half heroics but it was during that final 30 minutes of this thrilling, nerve shredding encounter that their dreams of yet more European glory unravelled so cruelly.

Lampard and Drogba ended their hopes with those goals that will rankle with everyone in a red shirt as they could have and should have been avoided.

Referee Roberto Rosetti could have given Hyypia a reprieve for his error by awarding a spot kick when the Finn was felled in the box by Drogba but the Italian chose to wave play on even though the Ivorian had made contact with man, not ball.

On such decisive moments do games of this magnitude turn, but having benefited from a controversial refereeing decision themselves in the last round it would be churlish in the extreme if Liverpool were to make any complaints about one that went against them.

To their credit, no-one seemed interested in doing so anyway and instead the focus was placed on what they could have done to avoid defeat rather than looking for tenuous excuses.

Ryan Babel’s late consolation made the final scoreline a more accurate representation of the closeness of this pulsating contest and should Chelsea go on to lift European football’s greatest trophy they will look back on their victory over Liverpool as the moment when their name was etched on the cup.

The much maligned chequered flags which greeted the hosts as they entered the pitch turned out to be the signal for Liverpool’s final lap in this season’s European race.

In truth, they had done ridiculously well to get this far given the off field turmoil which has provided the backdrop to almost their entire season.

The sight of co-owner Tom Hicks striding across the pitch shortly after the final whistle reminded everyone that Liverpool’s biggest problem is not at left back or on the wings, it is in the boardroom and only if those self-appointed “custodians” get their act together will there be any chance of Europe being conquered once more.

This time around, it just wasn’t to be. The twin impostors of fate and self-destruction combined to end all hopes of an end of season trip to Moscow.

Still, there’s always next year, and no-one will need a visa to go to Rome.

Gerrard wants stronger Reds

Sky Sports

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has called for the club to back Rafa Benitez in the transfer market for next season.

Benitez is already planning to bring in reinforcements for next term after seeing their UEFA Champions League dreams ended by Chelsea in a dramatic semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

Liverpool's transfer plans could be affected by the boardroom unrest at Anfield involving American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but Gerrard is hoping the Reds squad will be strengthened in the close-season to help them challenge the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We've all got to look forward because it's never easy to lose a game like this. We were all desperate to win the European Cup again, especially for our fans, who were magnificent again."

"But there is no point in looking back or thinking of what might have been. We have to look forward because we have to go into next season looking to improve again.

"Hopefully, we will go into next season with a stronger squad because that could make a big difference, particularly when we're playing in games like last night's.

"And if we can bottle the disappointment we're feeling right now it could be a big motivation for us."

Gerrard admitted he was proud of the side's effort in the narrow defeat to Chelsea

"It just wasn't to be," added Gerrard. "Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and admit it wasn't your night.

"We gave it absolutely everything and I was as proud to be captain of the team last night as I have ever been.

"Even after going behind we kept on fighting and looking to get back into the game and when we managed to do that it looked like we could even go on and win it.

"Like I said, it wasn't to be, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. You have to give Chelsea credit, they are a good side - you don't get through to European Cup finals unless you are. "

Masch: This team will
reach many finals

By Jimmy Rice at Stamford Bridge - LFC Official Website

Javier Mascherano has spoken of his pain after Liverpool's European dream ended for another year – but insisted he and his teammates could reach many finals in the years to come.

The Argentina international felt the Reds were more than a match for Chelsea in both legs despite losing 4-3 on aggregate.

And he claimed that, despite missing out this time, the current Liverpool squad was capable of conquering Europe once more over the next few years.

Mascherano told "It is very painful. We showed character and personality, so it's difficult to take because we played well and lost.

"We played at Anfield and the result was not so good, but here at Stamford Bridge we gave everything. We couldn't have done more.

"We thought we could go on to win the game after Fernando Torres scored because we had two or three chances but everything changed with the penalty.

"This time was not for us but I will go home knowing that we played well and gave everything.

"If we continue the way we have, we will bring titles to Liverpool. This is a young team and today we showed character. We played well and now we need to continue improving."

Benitez: We were very close

By Chet Winter -

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez stood by his pre-match criticism of match-winner Didier Drogba and revealed Fernando Torres was substituted due to a hamstring problem.

Liverpool by and large were only sharp enough in short bursts and it did not prove to be enough up against a fully charged Chelsea, who ran out 3-2 winners after extra time - 4-3 on aggregate - and they will make the trip to Moscow for the Champions League final against Manchester United.

"I think think we were very close," Benitez told Sky Sports.

"We were playing well, especially in the second half. With the first goal we were due, I think we had two chances.

"In extra time we were much better - but after we conceded the second goal, and the third goal, finished the game."

The Spanish tactician revealed that Fernando Torres' controversial substitution made just as Chelsea restored their lead was due to an injury.

"He had a problem with his hamstring," said Rafa abruptly.

Ultimately, though, the Spanish tactician was left ruing what could have been: "There was a massive difference after we scored, we had control of the game. We had two chances at the start of extra time, we were in control of the game, we were creating opportunities.

"At the end of the day, penalty, the second goal, and the third goal was the end."

On the subject of Hyypia's penalty claim, the former Valencia boss did not choose to criticise the referee or make any accusations of conspiracy as he had done in the build-up to the game, and graciously accepted that these things happen.

"The players told me there was a penalty to Hyypia, but this is something you cannot change now," he sighed.

When asked whether he regretted his pre-match criticisms of Didier Drogba - the man who ultimately knocked his side out - he was adamant that his criticism had not brought about his own demise and stuck by his words.

"I don't think so," he replied. "When you play in the semi-final of the Champions League, I don't think you are thinking about any other thing - just to play as well as you can."

Co-owner Tom Hicks came down to the dressing room after the defeat and Rafa revealed what was said by the American to the crestfallen players.

"He said congratulations, because the team was working really hard, and it was a good comeback after conceding the first goal. So yes, positive things," he concluded.

Grant happy to make history

Sky Sports

Avram Grant admitted he was delighted to 'create history' after Chelsea beat Liverpool and booked a UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United.

The Israeli coach, who has come under fire at times this season after taking over from Jose Mourinho earlier in the season, has accomplished what the Portuguese legend could not at Stamford Bridge as he guided his side to the final.

Grant's side overcame Liverpool but they needed extra time before winning 3-2 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate and he was delighted.

"There is only one special one," he quipped when asked whether he could be ranked alongside Mourinho.

"I am very happy of course, every time you create history it is something special here in England, especially in Chelsea, especially after what we have had this year and especially against Liverpool," he told Sky Sports.

"We have created history and I am very proud I did it in my way, and this is time to say well done to all at the club, from Roman (Abramovich) the owner who created this club right down, my staff, my assistant, everyone is part of the creation here."

He also paid tribute to his opponents, adding: "I must say they are a fantastic team, Rafa plays tactically - you have to be very clever against him.

Grant was also quick to hail Frank Lampard who put Chelsea ahead in extra-time from the penalty spot.

The England midfielder was playing despite the recent loss of his mother and Grant reiterated his praise for his man.

"On the way to excellence you can be human and tonight it was more important to be human than football - he was one of our key players today, and it wasn't easy for him but he gave everything to the team," he said.

Grant himself was quite emotional at full time, dropping to his knees on the turf on the final whistle.

"I saw it on television and it was quite embarrassing but it is holocaust day in Israel and I am under the name of my grandfather so it was very emotional - on one side I am manager of a team that created history but on the other side it is not so easy especially for my father so I did what I did," he explained.

Grant is now relishing pitting his wits against Sir Alex Ferguson in Moscow in three weeks time.

"They are a great team with a great manager, but we have time to prepare," he said.

Chelsea lay to rest Liverpool bogey

By Ciaran Baynes - Setanta Sports

At the third time of asking in a Champions League semi-final, Chelsea finally overcame Liverpool, winning 3-2 on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, to set up
a final against Manchester United in Moscow.

Didier Drogba gave Chelsea the lead just after the half-hour mark, but this was cancelled out after 64 minutes by Fernando Torres. Frank Lampard sent Chelsea in front with a penalty midway through the first period of extra time and then Drogba struck again in the 105th minute to seal The Blues' ticket to the final, despite Ryan Babel's late strike for Liverpool.

In truth, until the amazing first period of extra time, the game was a cagey affair, much like the other five matches the teams have played against each other at this stage of the competition.

Drogba should have given his side the lead before he did when Lampard put him through down the inside-left channel but faced with a one-on-one, Chelsea's number 11 slid the ball with his left foot wide of The Reds' goal.

Chelsea did take the lead 12 minutes before half time when Alvaro Arbeloa's poor positioning enabled Salomon Kalou to run on unchecked to Lampard's slide-rule pass and the winger turned inside Sami Hyypia's tame challenge and curled an effort that Reina pushed out to Drogba.

Then, from a tight angle and under pressure, the Ivorian rifled home a low finish.

Before the interval, Chelsea were close to going further ahead when Michael Ballack, having done the difficult part in persuading Drogba to let him take the free kick, curled a delightful effort over the wall, but with Reina well-beaten, the effort flew less than a yard wide of the post.

Into the second half, Liverpool began enjoying a lot of possession, but seemed to lack a killer edge in the final third and their fans must have been wondered how long it would be before Peter Crouch came on to give them a target to aim longer balls at.

As it was, they equalised midway through the half with a tremendous goal worthy of the occasion.

Benayoun had failed to make his expected impact after joining from West Ham but when Rafa Benitez most needed him, he delivered. Turning inside Claude Makelele on the right flank, he also rode a challenge from Drogba before drawing Chelsea's central defenders and slipping the ball between the legs of Ricardo Carvalho into the path of Torres.

The Spaniard's first touch was exquisite, keeping the ball away from Michael Essien's challenge and with the second he slid past Cech.

After the goal, Chelsea began to make more inroads into the Liverpool half but their only real chance of the half came after a rampaging run from Essien down the right flank from his full back position resulted in a chance, after he shrugged off a challenge from Javier Mascherano, then turned smartly inside Xabi Alonso, but his left-footed effort found the side-netting.

After this point, there were few chances until extra time which began in incredible fashion as, after a corner was cleared to the edge of the box, Essien rifled in an unstoppable effort past Reina, but after lengthy celebrations with his team-mates, found it had been sensationally disallowed.

It was a borderline call as Drogba had been standing in an offside position in front of Reina, but he was not directly in line of the shot's path and the linesman hardly seemed in a position to make that call.

It seemed justice was served moments later when Chelsea won a spot kick after Ballack was felled in the box from a clumsy Hyypia challenge.

Lampard opted to take the kick instead of Ballack, who scored from 12 yards against Manchester United at the weekend, and after sending Reina the wrong way emotionally took off and kissed his black armband in tribute to his mother who died last week.

In the final minute of the first period of extra time, the game was effectively over when Anelka was slipped a ball on the right wing from substitute Florent Malouda and then slid a ball back for Drogba to smash low past Reina.

In the second half, Hyypia tripped over a challenge from Drogba but the referee after initially gesturing as if to put the whistle to his mouth, waved play on.

It seemed the match was over as a contest, but then Babel - who was controversially brought on for Torres after Lampard's goal - opted to take on a wildly optimistic 35-yard strike that Cech incredibly could only push into the inside of the Chelsea net.

Ultimately, Liverpool could not bring about another great escape in this competition.

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Thor Zakariassen ©