The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The roars of the Anfield crowd at the close were solely of defiance. Lesser supporters would have been struck dumb by John Arne Riise’s own-goal equaliser for Chelsea four minutes into stoppage time that, improbably after this showing, makes the visitors favourites to stride on to a Champions League final against Barcelona or Manchester United in Moscow.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Lacking inspiration for long periods, Chelsea rarely troubled Pepe Reina, but kept pressing to conjure up only the fourth goal Liverpool have conceded at Anfield in 15 European semi-finals on a night of drama on and off the pitch.”
The Times, Matt Hughes: “The size of Liverpool’s task is shown by them not managing to score on the eight occasions that Rafael Benítez has taken his team to Stamford Bridge in the past four seasons.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Avram Grant may not yet have proved he is a good manager but last night reinforced something about him we already knew: he is a very lucky manager.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Drama in the final seconds sends Chelsea back to Stamford Bridge with an away goal and the tie all square after John Arne Riise turns Salomon Kalou’s cross into his own net.”
OK, so who’s closest to Moscow, Chelsea or Liverpool?
On the pitch, with the clock at 93:50, it appeared that Liverpool were slightly closer until Salomon Kalou managed to dig out a cross from the corner flag for John Arne Riise to head home into his own goal.
The pundits speculated that this game would be the normal dull stalemate with excitement at the level of a TV debate between Avram Grant and Rafael Benitez but to be fair it was more exciting than expected, maybe equivalent to Grant and Benitez naked mud wrestling.
Liverpool is currently the European Capital of Culture. I prefer to think of Liverpool as a bacterial culture and Chelsea as a seven-day course of antibiotics. Today we’ve delivered the first tablets and by the seventh day the bacteria will be completely eradicated.
In the first half we started brightly and looked more comfortable and composed than Liverpool. As the half wore on Liverpool started to look better and Fernando Torres missed a one on one opportunity against Petr Cech.
Joe Cole had a chance but the ball was high and difficult to control. Didier Drogba had his normal moments lying prostrate but in between played a decent game and seemed “more up for it” than in recent weeks.
The referee gave us a surprising number of free kicks and didn’t seem to realise football is a contact sport. However when Jamie Carragher clashed with Drogba in the box the ref bottled it and didn’t give us a penalty. To be fair with each subsequent TV replay my opinion oscillated.
Three minutes before half time Liverpool scored. A quick free kick caught us napping but we appeared to have escaped the initial threat. The ball broke to Frank Lampard on the edge of the box and instead of hoofing it away he decided to try and dribble it out and lost the ball. From the subsequent pass Claude Makelele made a half hearted challenge and failed to stop Dirk Kuyt from scoring between Cech’s legs.
In the second half Liverpool started stronger and for 20 minutes I feared the worse. Ryan Babel had a good shot that just went outside the post and Cech was called on the make three very good saves. Our main line of attack was pumping it long to Drogba which is disappointing for a squad worth several hundred million when Wimbledon achieved the same result for a few hundred quid 20 years ago.
However Liverpool deployed our tactic of sitting back in the last period and invited pressure.
As the game drifted to a close and I conditioned myself to believing that a 1-0 defeat was perfectly acceptable Riise made it a more than acceptable score of 1-1.
- The away goal.
- Must pass better and not rely on the long ball to a lone striker.
- Petr Cech: Three top saves kept us in it. Flapped at a couple of corners but overall – 8/10.
- Paulo Ferreira: Steady – 6/10.
- Ashley Cole: Steady – 6/10.
- John Terry: Strong but caught for pace a couple of times – 7/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: Strong and quick – 8/10.
- Michael Ballack: Bit of a stroll and would like to see more midfield domination – 6/10.
- Frank Lampard: If I left a nail out in the rain I wouldn’t expect it to go rusty this quick. Plus he’s got to take responsibility for the goal – 5/10.
- Claude Makelele: Poor tackle for the first goal and almost gave away another in the second half – 5/10.
- Joe Cole: Was he playing? – 4/10.
- Florent Malouda: Looked more committed than we’ve been used to. Or was it Joe Cole that made him look better? – 6/10.
- Didier Drogba: Drama queen but tried hard and for most of the game was our only outlet – 7/10.
- Salomon Kalou (sub): The cross for the goal earns him – 7/10.
Man of the Match
Petr Cech – top saves.
Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
All we’ve got to do is hold out for a draw and we’ve been very good at drawing this season. So are we already in Moscow? Is the deal done?
Is it like we’ve exchanged contracts on a house so completion is just a formality or will we be hit with the sucker blow that we got our mortgage from Northern Rock?
Is the pie already baked and it just needs browning off? All we need to do is keep our eye on it through the oven door glass to make sure it doesn’t burn. Or is it more like a soufflé? It’s risen nicely but there’s plenty of time for it to fall flat.
Now where did I put the application form for my Russian visa?
- Reaction: Final not promised but a good step
- Grant hopes goal will be turning point he craves
- Timing wrong for Rafael Benitez as he blames the usual suspects