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Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC remained deadlocked at 0-0 for the third time in four UEFA Champions League meetings this year, leaving the European champions to claim top spot in Group G with Chelsea having to make do with second place.
Marvels of strength
As in last season's semi-final at Stamford Bridge, this was largely a tale of Chelsea pressure with Liverpool defending at their very best. At the back Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypiä were marvels of strength and anticipation and they gave the home team no encouragement at all. Chelsea manager José Mourinho will be disappointed his side could not take one of three decent second-half openings and that meant both teams completed their six group fixtures having conceded just one goal apiece.
There had been speculation that key performers would be rested on either side but in the event both managers played a strong hand. Liverpool made just two alterations to the team that had clinched progress to the knockout rounds on Matchday 5, with Djimi Traoré in at left-back and Luis García, whose goal divided these clubs in last term's semi-final, preferred to Fernando Morientes.
Chelsea made three changes after injuries ruled out Hernán Crespo and Joe Cole. Asier Del Horno also dropped to the bench as Paulo Ferreira, Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben returned to the starting XI. The early exchanges made a nonsense of the theory that with qualification assured, the fixture would lack the intensity of previous meetings. It was fast and competitive, and once again the Liverpool defence demonstrated they were in no mood to be broken.
García nearly put his colleagues in trouble early on with a loose pass which gave Chelsea possession just outside the penalty area. It eventually led to a Frank Lampard shot which José Manuel Reina did well to beat away. The European champions responded to that alarm with positive intent and Steven Gerrard, taking over after Peter Crouch had laid the ball off, angled a drive beyond the far post.
Robben's attempt to find his man from deep in his half then had Chelsea flirting with danger and it required a show of strength from John Terry to hold off García. Chelsea were shading possession but Liverpool carried genuine menace on the break. In the 31st minute they carved out the most promising chance to date when Gerrard, nominally stationed on the right flank but seizing every opportunity to drift infield, released John Arne Riise. The Norwegian had plenty of time to pick his spot but Petr Čech was equal to it and kept out the shot with his right boot.
Chelsea replaced Ferreira with Del Horno at the interval, while Liverpool's first substitution saw Riise make way for Harry Kewell just past the hour. By that time, two good opportunities had come and gone for the hosts who were lent strong impetus by the drive of Michael Essien and Robben's clever footwork.
A long ball from William Gallas was chested down by Drogba at the far post and in came Robben to slice wide of the right-hand upright. The Dutchman was heavily involved again seven minutes later when Lampard drifted a corner outside the penalty box. Robben helped the ball on and Eidur Gudjohnsen, played onside, hooked over.
Liverpool saw less of the ball as Chelsea pinned them back and Gerrard's influence was not as marked, although the home side could not find the goal which would have won them the group.
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