- but so far in
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
But the Reds fell short last night. Only fractionally. Only
by a single goal after 210 minutes of nerve- shredding
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
Didier Drogba was inspired, Frank Lampard excellent and
Michael Essien simply the most effective player on the
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
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
At least there’s no need to worry about those Russian visas
Moscow will only be playing host to one Red Army and, after
yet another night of agony at Stamford Bridge, it won’t be
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
"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. "
This team will
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
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 Liverpoolfc.tv: "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
"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
Benitez: We were very close
By Chet Winter - Goal.com
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.