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By Adam Szreter at Anfield
Twenty years on from their last appearance in the final of Europe's premier club competition, an occasion that will always be remembered for the loss of 39 lives, Liverpool FC will travel to Istanbul for this year's UEFA Champions League final after defeating Chelsea FC. There they will have an opportunity to pay further respect to the people who lost their lives that night in Brussels.
The emotion that has surrounded Liverpool's progress ever since they were drawn to face Juventus FC in the quarter-finals was harnessed here tonight in the most positive way imaginable. Their players seemed to have an extra metre of pace as they contested every 50-50 ball, while their fans lived up to their billing as the best in the land.
The winning goal came as early as the fourth minute and summed up the closeness of this tie, as Luis García's effort needed confirmation from the match officials before Liverpool's fans could celebrate. For Chelsea, three days after securing the English league title for only the second time in their history, this was undoubtedly a disappointment, but José Mourinho's men have beaten league leaders in Spain and Germany as well as getting past the holders in their group, and their chance will come again.
Both sides made one change to the starting lineups from the goalless first leg at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool's enforced by the suspension of Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso, for whom Dietmar Hamann deputised. Chelsea left out young right-back Glen Johnson in favour of the more experienced Geremi and almost straight away this area of the new English champions' defence was put to the test by Liverpool.
John Arne Riise picked up possession and found Steven Gerrard, who lifted the ball into Milan Baroš's path. Petr Cech raced from his line but only partially blocked his compatriot's effort and García stabbed the loose ball goalwards. Despite William Gallas's efforts to clear off the line, a nod of the head from the assistant referee meant Liverpool were in front.
A deafening barrage of noise had greeted the teams but now of course the Anfield roof was nearly blown off. Chelsea were momentarily stunned before Claude Makelele started to get a grip of midfield. The diminutive former French international began a move that gave Liverpool clear warning of the visitors' capacity to break at speed. This time though Jamie Carragher was on hand to deny Didier Drogba after Joe Cole's astute through-ball.
A tame shot wide by Tiago and Cole's chip from an acute angle that curled across the face of goal - the latter after García had dithered almost disastrously on the edge of his own area - were further evidence of Chelsea's threat.
At the other end Gallas cut out a promising diagonal pass from Gerrard destined for García, and a speculative Hamann effort was comfortably gathered by Cech at chest height, before John Terry escaped when a Gerrard cross made contact with his hand just outside the penalty area.
Chelsea finished the half marginally in the ascendancy but Carragher, one of five players just a caution away from a potentially heart-breaking suspension, led Liverpool's resistance with commendable assurance.
Chelsea resumed after the break where they left off, with Liverpool struggling to keep possession. To this end manager Rafael Benítez withdrew his lone striker, Baroš, and threw on Djibril Cissé in the hope of holding the ball long enough for Liverpool's midfield runners to get up in support. García was always the most likely to do so, and his quick thinking almost gave Cissé a chance but the pass was just too long.
Chelsea, meanwhile, were finding it hard to get beyond Carragher and Co. on the edge of the Liverpool area but a Frank Lampard free-kick in the 67th minute brought the best out of Jerzy Dudek, who flew to his right to turn the ball around for a corner. This heralded the introduction of Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman for Chelsea.
The game was on a knife-edge now, with both managers on their feet almost constantly and the crescendo of noise unabated. A goal for either side now would clinch it: a Cissé header was held on the line by Cech, then Eidur Gudjohnsen arrowed a shot across the face of goal deep into added time. In the end though García's early effort was enough and another famous European chapter was written for Liverpool.
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