By Trevor Haylett at Stamford Bridge
AS Monaco FC again showed their fighting qualities in adversity to recover from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Chelsea FC that was enough to secure a place in the final of the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
The French team, who famously recovered a 4-2 deficit against Real Madrid CF in the quarter-finals, will now meet FC Porto in the final on 26 May, offering their young coach Didier Deschamps the chance to join a select band who have lifted the trophy as both player and manager. Goals from Jesper Grønkjær and Frank Lampard had made it 3-3 on aggregate but replies from Hugo Ibarra and Fernando Morientes, with his ninth goal in the competition, had the Monaco supporters celebrating.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri, who came in for heavy criticism in the English newspapers for his substitutions at the Stade Louis II, made five changes to the eleven that started two weeks ago. The most significant switches were the return from injury of goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and key defender William Gallas, while in attack Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was preferred to Hernán Crespo.
Hasselbaink's route to goal opened up in the first minute but he failed to beat Flavio Roma having escaped from Sébastien Squillaci, one of two changes for Monaco, who were without the suspended Akis Zikos. Dado Pršo was left on the bench and Edouard Cissé came into midfield. Monaco, with a healthy lead to defend, mostly left Ludovic Giuly on his own up front with Morientes more likely to drop back and stiffen the midfield.
It must have concerned the visitors the way Chelsea found their passing range from the start, with Lampard prominent and Joe Cole willing to drift infield from his left-sided position. Cole should have fired Chelsea ahead in the 16th minute when Geremi's fierce shot was parried by Roma, but the Englishman sliced his attempt horribly wide. However, a minute later Cole almost made amends as he skilfully released Hasselbaink. Out came the goalkeeper to smother the drive.
Chelsea were stoking the fires and the heat was becoming uncomfortable for Monaco. It was no surprise when the English team forged ahead on the night, Grønkjær cutting in from the right before dispatching a curling effort over Roma and into the far corner of the net.
Monaco countered soon after with a Morientes shot that was deflected on to the post and Eidur Gudjohnsen hit the woodwork at the other end with a close-range header that struck the top of Roma's crossbar. Then, in a rapid breakaway, Jérôme Rothen wormed his way free and found Morientes who with only Cudicini to beat should have done better than to poke his effort wide.
A minute before half-time Chelsea wiped out Monaco's first-leg advantage with a crisp move involving Mario Melchiot and Gudjohnsen that culminated in Lampard's finish. Even so that was not the end of an amazing half as Rothen crossed and Morientes headed on to the far post and the ball bounced in off the body of Ibarra.
It swung the tie back Monaco's way but they were definitely shaken by the force and passion behind Chelsea's approach. At the break Deschamps took off Squillaci and brought on Jaroslav Plašil and his team were lucky to escape as first Gudjohnsen missed his kick and then Grønkjær shot wastefully over the top.
How costly those misses were to prove because when Morientes struck on the hour it began to spell the end of Chelsea's great adventure. It was a fantastic goal from a player at the top of his game, a one-two with Lucas Bernardi paving the way for a driven finish under Cudicini's body. It left Chelsea needing to score three times and it was clear that the Spaniard had just delivered a killing blow.