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Blues Through In Eight-Goal Thriller
Published : 14 Apr 2009 22:09:00Rss feed
Chelsea booked a Champions League semi-final with Barcelona after an incredible 4-4 draw with Liverpool saw them edge through 7-5 on aggregate. Guus Hiddink's side - 3-1 winners from the first leg - found themselves 2-0 down at the interval after goals by Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso looked like setting Rafa Benitez's side on their way to another stunning European comeback. But the Blues - thanks to Didier Drogba, Alex and Frank Lampard then turned the match on its head as the Londoners claimed a 3-2 lead to seemingly make sure of a semi-final spot. Amazingly, Liverpool weren't done and two goals in a minute from Lucas and Dirk Kuyt put them 4-3 ahead on the night and once again one goal away from the impossible. However, Lampard's sweetly-struck second made it 4-4 on the night and booked their date with favourites Barcelona. The Reds opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Aurelio's clever free-kick cut the aggregate scoreline to 3-2 in Chelsea's favour. The Brazilian full-back, standing 30 yards from goal and wide on the right, caught Petr Cech napping by curling his effort into the bottom corner when everyone was awaiting a cross into the danger zone. And another Aurelio free-kick into the danger zone resulted in the award of a penalty kick when first-leg hero Branislav Ivanovic was penalised for pulling back Alonso in the penalty area. The Spanish midfielder then dusted himself down and emphatically blasted his spot-kick past Cech to put the Reds 2-0 up on the night after 28 minutes. Chelsea looked nervy as the half closed out, but the Reds were soon on the target again as the second period got underway, with Aurelio dropping a dinked cross just wide of goal with Cech in no-man's land. But it was the Blues who scored the next goal, when Drogba got the deftest of touches to Nicolas Anelka's right-wing cross. The Ivorian's 52nd-minute flick just did enough to creep past Pepe Reina and over the line. Chelsea then equalised on 57 minutes when Alex thundered a 25-yard free-kick around the wall and past Reina's outstretched grasp to make the scoreline 5-3 to Chelsea on aggregate. Lampard then steered the ball past Reina on 76 minutes to put Chelsea 3-2 ahead and 6-3 on aggregate and seemingly into the semi-final. But two goals in 60 seconds from first Lucas (81) and then Dirk Kuyt (82) put the Reds 4-3 ahead on aggregate and 6-5 behind on aggregate and once again within one goal of the semi-final. However, Lampard settled an amazing tie in Chelsea's favour with his second of the night when his shot beat Reina and flew in off the post to seal a 7-5 success on aggregate and a 4-4 draw on the night. After the game Hiddink admitted he was worried his team were going out after going in at half-time 2-0 down. "If you are 1-0 and 2-0 down you are worried," he told ITV1. "You can kill the game in the first half-hour by not conceding, but not by sitting back, with your backs in the goal - then you ask for problems, and we were worried. "It was a matter of having too much respect so we got a little bit angry and the team reacted. That's what I liked in the second half." Meanwhile Benitez insisted everyone associated with the Reds could hold their heads high. "We are disappointed because we scored four goals away from home and this game was unbelievable, and I'm really proud of the players and fans because they were pushing the team all the time," he told ITV1. "I thought we played a really good game." Benitez admitted he thought the upset was on at half-time and put the eventual heartbreak down to errors. "When we scored the second goal I had confidence," he added. "When they scored their first goal I thought we could still do it, but when you talk about Chelsea they have top-class players and they punish you when you make a mistake."
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