By Andrew Haslam at Stamford Bridge
The all-English UEFA Champions League semi-final is intriguingly poised ahead of next Tuesday's second leg after an entertaining encounter between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC ended goalless.
Both sides had chances to establish an advantage for the return at Anfield, with Frank Lampard missing the target with Chelsea's best effort while at the other end Milan Baroš forced a diving save from Petr Cech. In the main, however, the excellence of the two defences, expertly marshalled by Chelsea captain John Terry and Sami Hyypiä of Liverpool, meant that clear chances were at a premium.
There was mixed pre-match news for the two managers as Chelsea winger Damien Duff failed to shake off a tight hamstring so Tiago started while Arjen Robben remained on the bench having not regained full match fitness after a broken foot. The visitors, meanwhile, were relieved that Baroš had recovered from a gashed knee to lead the attack, with support offered by Luis García, back after a thigh strain.
José Mourinho and his Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benítez had both predicted a cautious affair, and so it proved in the opening moments as play was compressed in the middle third of the field with neither side able to hold possession for long periods. However, urged on by vociferous home support, Chelsea began to commit more men forward and Didier Drogba had the evening's first sight of the target, but dragged a low effort across the face of goal with only Jerzy Dudek to beat.
The miss seemed to galvanise both sides, and John Arne Riise might have put the visitors in front having collected Xabi Alonso's perceptive pass and cut inside only for Cech to block. Chelsea then carved out an even better opportunity midway through the half as William Gallas's left-wing cross was nodded back across goal by Joe Cole, but Lampard unexpectedly volleyed over from close range.
With neither side able to make the breakthrough, play continued to swing from end to end with little in the way of genuine goalscoring chances, although Drogba did head a corner too high. The visitors came closest to edging in front seven minutes before half-time as Steven Gerrard's cross was met by Baroš on the edge of the area, but Cech sprang across to push the header behind.
It was the home side who rediscovered their rhythm quickest after half-time, with Hyypiä called upon to make a crucial saving tackle as Cole prepared to shoot having pounced on a short goal kick from Dudek. Chelsea continued to hold the upper hand as the half wore on, but rarely looked like penetrating a solid and well-organised Liverpool defence.
The stalemate prompted Robben's introduction just before the hour and the substitute almost provided a goal for Terry within two minutes, but the Chelsea captain was just unable to connect properly with the Dutch international’s corner. The Liverpool defence were clearly wary of Robben though, with three defenders quickly closing him down as he burst from midfield minutes later.
Liverpool responded with a change of their own, Djibril Cissé replacing Baroš, and Benítez's substitute had a similarly lively introduction, shooting over seconds after coming on. Both teams continued to search for that elusive first goal as the match reached a conclusion, but neither found it to leave no margin for error in the second leg, for which Alonso is suspended after a late booking.