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Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool


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Chelsea F.C. 4 - 4 Liverpool

Tuesday 14 April 2009, UEFA Champions League Quarter Final, Second Leg, Stamford Bridge, West London.

Alexandteammates.jpg
Alex da Costa is mobbed by his teammates after his stunning freekick.

Frank Lampard put in an absolutely inspirational performance to set up a Semi Final clash with Barcelona.


With John Terry absent through suspension, it was Lampard who led the team out of the tunnel and his incredible effort and attitude was the catalyst for a brilliant Chelsea fight-back. 2-0 down at half-time after Fabio Aurelio had caught out Petr Cech with a low freekick and Xabi Alonso had ruthlessly dispatched a penalty, it was Lampard, who, along with Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka, helped to turn the match and the Blues soon restored parity through a Drogba flick and Alex's thunderbolt of a freekick. Lampard himself then fired home from close range to give Chelsea lead on the night but Liverpool responded through Lucas' deflected effort and a storming header from Dirk Kuyt, but Lampard netted a stunning equaliser to earn the hosts a draw in what was a truly stunning game of football.

Both teams were without their club captains as John Terry and Steven Gerrard were both banned and injured respectively. Guus Hiddink brought in Alex as the replacement for the Blues skipper, and Michael Essien returned to the starting line-up after being rested for the match against Bolton last Saturday. Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda continued up front alongside the in-form Didier Drogba. Liverpool made changes as well, with Albert Riera dropped to the bench in favour of former West Ham player Yossi Benayoun, and Javier Mascherano returned to the midfield to fill the void left by Gerrard's absence.

The first ten minutes saw the two teams measuring each other up, and passed without much inside, besides an injury to Didier Drogba out on the wing left the Ivorian hobbling. Petr Cech punched away a Liverpool freekick after Torres had won a freekick, and Ricardo Carvalho showed his experience by winning his first challenge with the Spanish striker, much to the delight of the Stamford Bridge faithful.

Torres was then presented with a glorious opportunity to give Liverpool the lead, but after a neat interchange between Kuyt and Benayoun, the Spaniard could only hook his effort wide of the target. At the other end, Frank Lampard hit a swerving freekick into the side netting; the ball mere inches away from the target with Pepe Reina beaten.

But in an eventful first half, Liverpool were by far the better team. Their passing was crisp and sure, and Rafa Benitez had set up his side in an organised fashion. In contrast, Chelsea looked fragile and making mistakes, and it was to the surprise of few people that they took the lead with 18 minutes gone. Fabio Aurelio stood over the ball out on the left, and with everyone expecting a cross to the far post - not least Petr Cech - the Spaniard expertly fired into the bottom corner at the near post. Cech's positioning was poor to say the least.

The goal galvanised the Liverpool fans, who were in good voice away in the corner of the Shed End. And when Liverpool went 2-0 up through Xabi Alonso, it was no surprise that many Chelsea fans were left feeling angry and disappointed by such a poor, uncharacteristic performance. Martin Skrtel poked over the bar from two yards out as the ball was swung in from out wide, but the Spanish referee pointed to the spot after Ivanovic hauled down Alonso in the box. The Liverpool midfielder duly dispatched the spot kick.

It should be noted that this was the same referee who sent Deco off for taking a quick free kick.

Guus Hiddink responded by sending on Nicolas Anelka for the desperately disappointing Kalou, and the Frenchman offered a spark that had been missing for much of the match from a Chelsea perspective. Immediately the hosts posed a threat down the right, with Anelka earning a freekick after being tripped by Benayoun. Lampard then headed wide as Drogba flicked the ball on for what was a difficult chance for the Blues skipper, but Liverpool were not yet finished and could have had another goal for their first half endeavours, but for Cech to make a good save from a Kuyt header before Carvalho made two excellent clearances with the hosts under pressure. But more was required from a lacklustre Blues performance - as pointed out by a chorus of boos as the half time whistle was sounded.

One furious Guus Hiddink team-talk later and the Blues were much-improved. Only five minutes in the second half, Drogba netted a crucial goal to hand the Blues a 4-3 aggregate lead. Anelka broke away down the right before launching a teasing low cross to the front post with Drogba flicked towards goal. Reina was caught by surprise, and could only parry the ball into his own goal, but Drogba's touch was on-target and the goal was correctly awarded to the Ivorian. Choruses of 'Let's all do the Reina!' - along with flapping arm movements - broke out amongst the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand as Stamford Bridge erupted. A collective sigh of relief could be heard. Game on.

Then Drogba launched a brilliant freekick inches wide of the target that many inside the stadium thought went the right side of the post. A minute later, however, and the Blues supporters were on their feet. Alex stepped up and launched an incredible 37 yard freekick that swerved so viciously it swung from one way to the other as it beat Reina with irresistible power. That made it 2-2 on the night, but more drama was to follow.

On 62 minutes, Cech showed signs of regaining his confidence after making a trademark low save to keep out a well-struck Mascherano effort from the edge of the area that seemed destined for the bottom corner, before a crucial decision was made by the referee to book Ashley Cole for apparently pushing a Liverpool player as he looked to break free. It was a soft freekick and a poor decision from the Spaniard - but it means that Cole will miss the first leg of our titanic tie with Barcelona.

Florent Malouda - who had shown fantastic effort throughout - then did brilliantly to break away down the Chelsea left and launch a cross to Drogba after beating his marker. The Ivorian laid the ball off to Michael Ballack but the Germany captain could only find Reina's gloves as he shot too close to the Liverpool goalkeeper. It was the perfect opportunity for Chelsea's number 13 to open his Champions League account for the season.

Ballack made amends by creating Chelsea's third goal. Intercepting a stray pass, he played the ball to Drogba who beat his man and crossed for Lampard who duly fired home from 11 yards out to seemingly win the tie. Ballack went close with a freekick himself and with Fernando Torres trudging off to be replaced by David Ngog, it appeared Benitez was willing to accept defeat.

But on the week of the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, it was typical Liverpool to fight back from the jaws of defeat as they scored two goals in three minutes to earn a 4-3 lead on the night. First Lucas hit a strike from 20 yards that was deflected into the net off an unfortunate Michael Essien, before substitute Albert Riera crossed for Kuyt to head home a goal his performance deserved.

One more Liverpool goal would win it, but as the visitors pushed forward, the Blues broke and scored a brilliant fourth goal. Drogba and Anelka combined to tee up Lampard on the edge of the area, and with a helping hand from both posts, the ball nestled in the net to send the Bridge into frenzy mode. Chelsea were surely through - and but for Michael Essien's brilliant diving headed clearance from Ngog - Liverpool showed signs of accepting defeat as the Blues played out stoppage time. The full-time whistle was accompanied with Madness' 'One Step Beyond' - the same song the fans danced to after knocking out Barcelona in 2005. Now, we must do the same should we want to progress to out second Champions League final.

___________________________________________________________________

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...

Liverpool-Frank.jpg

Frank Lampard, Chelsea F.C.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole; Ballack, Essien; Kalou (Anelka), Lampard ©, Malouda; Drogba (Di Santo)

Liverpool : Reina; Arbeloa (Babel), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Mascherano (Riera), Alonso Lucas; Kuyt, Torres (Ngog), Benayoun


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