Trueblue Friendster Profile »

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Late Drama As Riise Gifts Chelsea An Equaliser

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

There was huge late drama at Anfield in a tense game in which fluent football was at a premium. It looked like it was going to be shaded by Liverpool, whose first half goal by Dirk Kuyt gave them a narrow advantage until, in the 95th minute, John Arne Riise gifted Chelsea an equaliser with a headed own goal.

Chelsea, who at times looked ragged, thus have a priceless away goal to take back to Stamford Bridge. They had had some earlier chances to equalise, but Liverpool might also have scored again. The dramatic way in which it ended leaves the tie intriguingly balanced - but just in Chelsea's favour now. A scrambled goal by Dirk Kuyt towards he end of a tense, tight first half at Anfield put Liverpool in the driving seat in a Champions League semi-final first leg that Chelsea started the stronger. But the Blues allowed the Reds to come more and more into it and Rafa Benitez's side deserved their first half lead.Chelsea looked tentative with Frank Lampard's set-pieces unproductive and Petr Cech unusually hesitant between the sticks. In contrast, Xabi Alonso was superb for Liverpool, bringing Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres into the game. Benitez had recalled eight players for the game, Gerrard and the in-form Torres being joined in the starting line-up by Fabio Aurelio, Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Jamie Carragher.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant picked Paulo Ferreira at right-back ahead of Juliano Belletti but made five changes from the side that beat Everton last week, with Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda are given starts. Chelsea started brightly, but Gerrard had the first attempt on goal, trying a snapshot from the edge of the area that Cech saved comfortably low down, before Alonso put Kuyt through on goal, only for the Dutchman's first touch on his chest to let him down, Cech blocking the ball which was then scrambled clear.Torres stabbed a half-chance past the post before a promising move by Chelsea saw Ballack find Drogba, whose cross just eluded Joe Cole, who soon afterwards had a great chance when Lampard played him in with a deft chip that he made a mess of by miskicking. With the game tight and cagey, few clear chances were being created. Drogba went down under Carragher's challenge as he ran through on goal, but the referee waved play on much to Drogba's indignation.

Then Gerrard found Torres with an excellent pass but the Spaniard shot straight at Cech when clean through on goal. Gerrard had a go himself with an ambitious volley from 25 yards out, but Cech saved it easily.However, the breakthrough came ten minutes later - with 43 minutes on the clock. Alonso took a quick free-kick which caught Chelsea napping, and untypically, Lampard gave the ball away on the edge of the area. Javier Mascherano's miskick found its way through to Kuyt, who slid the ball through the legs of Cech as Makelele completely missed the ball. It was a scruffy sort of goal but a potentially crucial one, and Chelsea only had themselves to blame for conceding it. Liverpool began the second half in dominant mood, buoyed by the goal, with Chelsea guilty of wasting possession too often, seemingly unable to keep the ball. Their big-name midfield players Ballack, Makelele and Lampard were not getting hold of the game as Gerrard and Alonso dictated play.

Chelsea looked to go long for Drogba, but the Ivorian striker was getting little joy from the Liverpool defenders.On the hour mark, Babel nearly doubled Liverpool's lead with a sensational volley from 30 yards, Cech scrambling across his line as the ball went just inches wide.Drogba found Lampard in space inside the area but the England man took a heavy touch and the ball went out for a goal-kick, summing up Lampard's night.But Chelsea began to string a few more passes together, and they created a great chance when Malouda, free on the left, decided to cut inside and Mascherano had to get back to deflect his shot wide. Drogba chested the ball back to Ballack whose volley was blocked by Carragher.As the game moved into its last ten minutes, Chelsea wasted another chance to secure a possibly crucial away goal. They had men to spare as substitute Kalou raced towards the box, but his pass to Lampard was poor and Carragher was able to block.

Then Ballack spun and went for goal from 25 yards out but Reina held his shot well. At the other end, Gerrrard forced Cech to tip a volley over the bar. Torres was played in behind the Chelsea defence by Gerrard but his touch let him down and he lost the opportunity to run at Cech. Then came the sensational finale - a dramatic twist to the tale as Kalou's cross, difficult for Riise to deal with facing his own goal, was headed past Reina as the Norwegian substitute chose not to trust his right foot but instead stooped low in a disastrous attempt to clear. His intervention has swung the tie in Chelsea's favour.

Teams:Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, Babel, Gerrard, Torres.Subs: Itandje, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun, Crouch, Pennant, Lucas.

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Makelele, Ballack, Joe Cole, Drogba, Malouda.Subs: Hilario, Shevchenko, Obi, Kalou, Alex, Belletti, Anelka.

Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria)

Graham Lister