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Chelsea fall under weight of history

Published: Wednesday 4 May 2005, 0.55CET
Chelsea FC's second successive semi-final defeat came as Liverpool FC won through to their sixth European Cup final.

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Published: Wednesday 4 May 2005, 0.55CET

Chelsea fall under weight of history

Chelsea FC's second successive semi-final defeat came as Liverpool FC won through to their sixth European Cup final.

By Simon Hart at Anfield

On the eve of this emotive occasion at Anfield, Liverpool FC manager Rafael Benítez said he wanted his team to "score in the last minute and win 1-0". After a tightly contested first leg had ended scoreless, there would be no early cavalry charge, not with the threat of an away goal.

Uplifting opening
The Spaniard did not get his wish but it is unlikely he was too dismayed when compatriot Luis García struck to give a fourth-minute lead to a side once again galvanised by the electric charge that runs around Anfield on these nights. In a match of few chances, it was enough to earn Liverpool a sixth appearance in a European Champion Clubs' Cup final, 20 years after their last, and consign the new English champions, Chelsea FC, to a second successive semi-final loss.

Diverging fortunes
Before kick-off when the Anfield crowd rose to sing their beloved anthem You'll Never Walk Alone, so drowning out Chelsea cries of "We are the champions", the message was clear: forget the Premiership, this is Europe. And so it proved. Chelsea may have won their last eight away matches in the English league - and both Premiership meetings with the Reds - but as any observer of Liverpool's fortunes this season will tell you, domestic form counts for nothing in the Champions League.

'Special one'
José Mourinho may be the self-styled "special one" but here died his dream of making history by winning the Champions League with two clubs in as many seasons. Instead it is Benítez, a UEFA Cup winner with Valencia CF last season, with the chance of further glory. And the goal which did the damage was created by Anfield's own special one, Steven Gerrard. Roman Abramovich may have bought Chelsea many things but Gerrard, a man they have long coveted, is not one of them.

Anfield erupts
Benítez had predicted a "key" performance from his captain and it was his chip over Chelsea's back line that led to the goal. The onrushing Milan Baroš lobbed Petr Cech and as the ball bobbled close to goal, Garcia nipped in ahead of John Terry to turn it over the line. Anfield erupted. With the early goal, Liverpool had no need to tear forward; instead they tore into Chelsea, allowing them no time or space. Dietmar Hamann blocked one Frank Lampard clearance with such force that it became a shot on goal.

Fruitless forays
Without the width of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, Chelsea were trying to play their way through the middle, but against a defence as resolute as Liverpool's in Europe, this bore no fruit. When Didier Drogba let one crossfield ball run through his legs - and on to nobody in particular - it seemed to sum up their first-half failings. Cute, but no cutting edge.

Dudek anonymity
Liverpool had contained Juventus FC and Chelsea impressively in their two previous Champions League matches and this was more of the same. Jerzy Dudek had to make only one telling save to turn away Lampard's fierce free-kick shortly after the hour. But as the clock ticked down Anfield was hushed, perhaps remembering the Londoners' late comeback that cost them the English League Cup final. It very nearly came when Eidur Gudjohnsen flashed a shot across goal with seconds to spare.

Strength of history
A banner at that final read "You can't buy history, heart, soul". Chelsea's newfound power hurts this old footballing stronghold, so this victory could not have been sweeter. Moreover it leaves Liverpool, the four-times European champions, just one step away from writing another glorious chapter in their history.

Last updated: 04/05/05 13.05CET