Champions League review: Chelsea 1 – 0 Liverpool

Match reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “It was a match to make grudges respectable. While Chelsea are out to avenge the loss to Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final two years ago, they were measured throughout a victory that makes them favourites to take their place in Athens on May 23. The Stamford Bridge side played cunningly on the break in a first-half that might have settled the entire tie.”

The Times, Oliver Kay: “A 1-0 lead is not to be sniffed at halfway through a Champions League semi-final, but the concern for Chelsea is that they should have had more than one goal to show for their domination of an utterly one-sided first half. Liverpool were wretched during that opening period, on the ropes and ripe for a good old-fashioned pummelling, but, no sooner had Joe Cole opened the scoring in the 29th minute than Chelsea relented, retreating under the tactical security blanket that remains their greatest asset and yet also – on the rare occasions they fail – their greatest flaw.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “The lead might be precarious but last night’s finer details told a most emphatic story about Chelsea’s mastery of an old foe. It was not just Joe Cole’s goal that divided these two teams but a Chelsea performance that was ominously commanding for a Liverpool side who will need more than just the local passion at Anfield on Tuesday to turn this tie around.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “How Liverpool lack a centre-forward in the menacing mould of Drogba, and they need to find a greater cutting edge for the Anfield leg next Tuesday.”

Daily Mail, Matt Lawton: “This time there were no “ghost goals” and there was no need to argue, either. The best team won at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night and the best team now stand within touching distance of a first Champions League final.”

The goal

The good

  1. One-nil is a good result to take to Anfield. Score an away goal and Liverpool would need three. We are unbeaten in all competitions since losing 2-0 at Anfield on the 20th January. Twenty-two games and counting.
  2. The first half. Dominating, measured, and composed. If only we had converted more of the many chances we created.
  3. Ricardo Carvalho, Didier Drogba, and Joe Cole. The three of them were great all game but will be remembered for their brilliantly worked goal. Carvalho’s surge out of defence and pinpoint pass, Drogba’s power, control and perfectly weighted ball, and Joe Cole’s desire and finish were a joy to behold – and had me celebrating like Lee Evans on speed. Thankfully both Drogba and Cole are available for the return leg after they avoided picking up yellow cards. (But would they miss the final – assuming we get to Athens – if booked at Anfield? Can you imagine us without Drogba? It doesn’t bear thinking about.)
  4. The goal. The first we’ve scored against Liverpool in the Champions League. Five games and 28 minutes passed before the ball hit the back of their net; Liverpool have yet to hit the back of ours in this competition.
  5. John Obi Mikel. Did anyone notice Michael Ballack was missing? Says it all really. Even Claude Makelele had a solid game after several less than impressive performances in recent times. The two of them effectively commanded the midfield. Frank Lampard also played really well.
  6. Petr Cech’s save from Steven Gerrard’s volley. The defining moment in this semi-final?
  7. I thought Paulo Ferreira did admirably considering Liverpool targeted him as our weak point. A contentious decision?
  8. Liverpool under Rafael Benitez haven’t managed to score a single goal at Stamford Bridge in the Premiership or Champions League since the Spaniard took charge in 2004.
  9. Markus Merk deserves a mention. Normally he’s the type of European referee that drives fans to edge of insanity with constant stoppages and shrill blasts on his whistle, so much so that in the past I’ve found myself yelling at him to shove his whistle where the sun doesn’t shine. Tonight he sensibly refereed like it was a Premiership game and only got a couple of decisions wrong (Alvaro Arbeloa’s handball being the most obvious, although, unlike Jose Mourinho, I thought it was outside the penalty area).

The bad

  1. The second half. Why, oh why can’t we produce two halves of equal quality? While we remained in control for the majority of the game, we gave Liverpool far too much possession and respect in the second half. One-nil is a good result to take to Anfield, but the fact that we didn’t score more before withdrawing into our defensive shell may come back to haunt us.
  2. I was a tad disappointed with Andriy Shevchenko. He worked hard until the moment he was substituted, but for all that effort there was very little in the way of quality. Being asked to play wide as part of a front three hinders and wastes his goal-scoring abilities.
  3. How Xabi Alonso avoided at least a yellow card for his high, studs showing assault on Obi Mikel’s groin I’ll never know. Can you imagine the uproar in the press and from Liverpool fans if Michael Essien had committed a similar tackle?
  4. Jamie Carragher’s constant attempts to get Drogba and Cole booked by motioning in the direction of the referee that both players were diving. Carragher epitomises the stereotype of a whinging Scouser.
  5. Liverpool fans. Pelted Drogba and Obi Mikel with bottles and coins when the two of them lay injured in Cech’s penalty area. What’s the betting the FA does sweet Fanny Adams about it? No mention of the incident in the press I’ve read either. One rule for us…

Man of the Match

On the basis that it’s becoming all too predictable to award Man of the Match to Didier Drogba nearly every game I’m going to give it to Ricardo Carvalho, because he deserves a great deal more kudos and recognition than he currently gets.

Final thoughts

While the scoreline may not make for a comfortable 90 minutes at Anfield next Tuesday, the manner in which we achieved this win suggests Liverpool’s fabled 12th man in the Kop may not be enough to tip the tie in their favour. An equally commanding performance and an early goal next week and it’s Athens here we come. Let’s just hope Liverpool are not gifted another “ghost goal”.

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