Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “This was epic stuff, one of the most memorable, fluctuating games in the history of the European Cup. Only when Frank Lampard struck his second, making it 4-4 with a minute remaining could Chelsea fans finally relax.”
The Times, Russell Kempson: “Chelsea, dogged in the extreme, rallied from 2-0 and 4-3 down to draw a pulsating second leg of an astonishing quarter-final 4-4, progressing to the last four for the fifth time in six years with a 7-5 winning aggregate. Can Chelsea v Barcelona possibly produce as memorable a tie as this?”
The Independent, Glenn Moore: “Needing three, Liverpool scored four times last night but so did Chelsea in a match of extraordinary drama at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool, beaten 3-1 at Anfield last week in the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final, twice seemed poised to achieve an incredible comeback success before Chelsea, driven on by a half-time blast from Guus Hiddink’s “hairdryer”, prevailed.”
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea maintained their hopes of landing the greatest prize of all, but only after they risked searing ignominy. There were moments when Liverpool, leading 2-0 and then 4-3, were a goal short of a triumph in the second leg of this Champions League tie. Barcelona could well be gleeful about their prospects against Chelsea in the semi-final, but it is most unlikely that those matches will bear any resemblance to this one. Few games ever have.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues put fans’ nerves through the shredder – allowing Liverpool a 2-0 lead by half time and then after going ahead on the night, coming within a single goal of defeat before Frank Lampard eventually calms it down.”
Guus Hiddink made two changes to the team that very nearly capitulated against Bolton on Saturday. Michael Essien came in for John Obi Mikel and Alex replaced the suspended John Terry.
We had not lost at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League since February 2006, some 16 matches in total. Thirteen of those were wins. Our heaviest ever defeat at home in Europe was 2-0 against Besiktas in October 2003.
Liverpool were without Steven Gerrard, who failed to recover from a groin injury picked up in the first leg.
I was in the pub surrounded by pseudo-Scousers. I was a nervous wreck. The beer was flowing. Then the match kicked off and all hell broke loose.
- How exactly does one go about writing a blog post about an amazing football match like this? Did a Chelsea versus Liverpool Champions League tie really produce eight goals, 12 over two legs? Did we just win 7-5 on aggregate? SEVEN-FIVE? If it wasn’t for the mental and physical effects I’m experiencing right now, I’d believe that I dreamt it all. But seriously, I’m going to try to post some coherent thoughts, but I don’t promise that what follows will make much sense (I’ve imbibed quite a lot of lager). I hope we can as a collective make more sense in the coming days of what was the maddest 93 minutes of football we’re likely to witness for quite some time.
- The second half was pretty good, wasn’t it? I’m informed that the opening couple of minutes weren’t much of an improvement on the first half, with Cech making another blunder seconds after the restart. By this point I had abandoned The Ship and was at home flitting between the sunroom and the living room like a deranged animal that has been locked up for too long. I didn’t know whether to sit down and watch the TV or hide and hope for the best. I missed our first two goals in realtime because I was hiding and hoping for the best. Then I thought that the act of hiding and hoping for the best was playing a part in our revival, so I didn’t know whether to sit down and watch the TV or continue hiding and hoping for the best. Lampard’s first goal convinced me to sit down and watch the TV but this only made things worse as Lucas and Kuyt scored and I thought it was all my fault for not hiding and hoping for the best. Do you see what this game has done to me? I’m a gibbering wreck. I need another cup of sweet tea. Back in five minutes.
- Okay. I’m back. Tea’s not helping. Didier Drogba. Superhuman. Rampaging. I can’t think of two better words to describe his performance. After the break, with the help of Lampard, he literally picked the team up and carried it on his shoulders. He was utterly magnificent. The piece of boot leather he managed to get on Anelka’s cross which caused Reina to fumble the ball into his own net should be framed and given pride of place somewhere in the Bridge, because before that we never looked like getting back into it. That faintest of touches changed the whole tie. While the goal made very little difference to the game other than to ensure that there would be extra time if Liverpool got the third goal they needed (no doubt I wasn’t the only one screaming please football god noooo!), what it did do was give the players belief which had been so noticeably missing up until that point, while at the same time deflating Liverpool, if only for a few minutes. I allowed myself to relax somewhat after Alex’s thunderbolt nearly burst Reina’s net and restored our two goal cushion. How foolish of me.
- Frank Lampard. There was no way he was going to let every Chelsea fan’s worst nightmare come true. He was pretty crap in the first half but then so were his team-mates. But as the second half progressed he turned into the Super Frank we all know and love and took the game by the scruff of the neck and smacked it about a bit. Two brilliant goals topped off a splendid 45 minutes. Criminally overlooked for the PFA Player of the Year award.
- Michael Essien’s headed goal line clearance. By this point I’d slipped into some kind of alternate reality and I still have no idea what the aggregate score would have been if Essien hadn’t got his head to Ngog’s shot. Time had stopped. How many did Liverpool need? It’s all a blur now.
- The opening 51 minutes of the match. A fiasco. Every Chelsea fan’s worst nightmare came true. We looked nervous and tentative and sat back and let Liverpool play and couldn’t keep the ball and Cech was flapping and Kalou was a liability and was Ballack even on the pitch. We couldn’t string more than two passes together and let Liverpool have 65% possession and then Cech let a free kick inside his post from 40 yards out and oh my god Liverpool are going to do it aren’t they and we will still be hearing about this match in 20 years’ time and I just want this comfy pub sofa to open up and swallow me now I can’t take anymore the Liverpool fans are mocking me somebody please rescue me because this lager isn’t helping one bit. Then last week’s hero turned villain and Alonso smashed a penalty past one of the most hapless savers of penalty kicks in the history of football and the pub erupted and the Liverpool fans mocked me some more time to abandon The Ship. I won’t be going back in there for a while I thought as I snuck out the side door and headed home to watch the remainder of the match on TV.
- Seriously though, what happened in the opening 51 minutes? Did Guus get his tactics all wrong? Were the players to blame? Was it a combination of the two? I really would like to know.
- Petr Cech. Poor Petr. He won’t live that one down for a while. My tip for him, taken from Goalkeeping for Dummies, is to wait until the ball is kicked before moving.
- Ashley Cole’s undeserved yellow card which rules him out of the first leg against Barcelona. Essien at left-back to deal with Messi? Why not. I’m sure he’d do a decent enough job. Messi would fit in his pocket with room to spare.
- ITV’s commentary. Clive Tyldesley used the words “spirit of Istanbul” seven seconds into the match. Impartiality certainly wasn’t going to be the order of the night. He even managed to disparage our fans on at least two occasions. In the words of our very own Jonathan Dyer, utter cunt(ery).
- Petr Cech – 2/10 – One of the worst, most nervy and hapless performances you’re likely to see from a goalkeeper in quite some time. He’s the new David James: a wonderful shot stopper but increasingly calamitous at all other aspects of the trade. It’s quite worrying.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 6.5/10 – Gave away the penalty but recovered and was pretty solid overall. It’s a cliche, but there’d be six penalties in every Premier League game if they were given for holding and shirt-pulling at set pieces. Still, the letter of the law was applied by the Spanish referee and a penalty was awarded.
- Ricardo Carvalho – 5/10 – Still off the pace. If he stays fit he should be up to speed by the time we play Barcelona. Fingers crossed.
- Alex – 7/10 – If only for his exceptional goal. Looked very nervous early on.
- Ashley Cole – 6/10 – Undeserved booking rules him out of the semis. Pretty average performance.
- Michael Essien – 6.5/10 – Gets an extra half mark for his headed goal line clearance. Looked a little lost without Steven Gerrard to mark. Did at least try to inject some urgency into the side on a few occasions in the first half.
- Michael Ballack – 6.5/10 – Invisible in the first half. In fact, I forgot he was playing until about 20 minutes in. Gets an extra half mark for his sublime pass to Drogba which led to Lampard’s first goal. Watch it again.
- Frank Lampard – 8/10 – Like every Chelsea player he had a really poor first half. But after the break, especially towards the closing stages, he was bloody magnificent. Two goals too.
- Salomon Kalou – 4/10 – Was substituted before half time. Possibly injured? Was a liability anyway. Repeatedly trying to dribble the ball out of defence will always attract the wrath of your manager.
- Florent Malouda – 6/10 – Awful first half. But improved markedly as the second 45 minutes progressed. Is it all a bit too late to save him? Yes.
- Didier Drogba – 9/10 – Awesome.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub) – 7/10 – Replaced Kalou with at least an hour to go. His hopeful cross changed the game. Has to go down as an inspired early substitution by Hiddink.
Man of the Match
Didier Drogba. Tried hard in the first half and put in a beast of a performance in the second. Fernando who?
My adrenalin levels have crashed, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet and then retire to bed to recover from the insanity of it all.
We’re in our fifth Champions League semi-final in six years. Pretty good, huh? A little stability at the club and you never know we might win it in the near future.
Lionel Messi stands between us and our second consecutive final. He’s only a wee lad so maybe we’ve got a chance.
I’ve had it. Good night.