Pepe Reina saved two spot-kicks as Liverpool FC knocked English rivals Chelsea FC out of the UEFA Champions League 4-1 on penalties to reach a second final in three seasons on a dramatic night at Anfield.
Daniel Agger's first-half shot had taken the semi-final into extra time but with no further goals and the aggregate scores locked at 1-1, a shoot-out ensued in which Dirk Kuyt struck the decisive conversion. After Boudewijn Zenden had tucked away Liverpool's first attempt, Reina guessed right to save Arjen Robben's effort. The next penalties were scored by Xabi Alonso, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard before Geremi was outsmarted by Reina and Kuyt stroked in the clincher.
Anfield had basked under a cloudless sky and brilliant sunshine at kick-off, but as darkness fell and the temperature dropped so it rose to boiling point inside the famous old stadium which, as expected, was full of song and passion throughout. Visibly lifted by the crowd, Liverpool started brightly and had most of the early possession without making inroads until the place erupted in celebration in the 22nd minute.
Gerrard fooled everyone with a low free-kick from the corner of the box which Chelsea expected to be curled up towards Peter Crouch and the mass of bodies around him; instead the Liverpool captain squared it to Danish international defender Agger, who sidefooted the ball past Petr Čech with power and precision. The aggregate equaliser was greeted by near pandemonium and Chelsea struggled to get into the match until Didier Drogba gave Liverpool a scare when he beat the offside trap but not Reina, who blocked his shot from a promising position.
The Premiership title-holders had another decent opportunity to equalise five minutes before the interval, however. Drogba climbed well to nod Lampard's corner towards the Kop End goal, yet Michael Essien could not apply the finishing touch with his header and the ball bounced to safety past Reina's right-hand post.
Off the bar
Although it seemed impossible at the time, the tension increased after the break as both teams went in search of goals. Crouch thought he had done enough to score when he towered above Paulo Ferreira and Essien to meet Jermaine Pennant's cross but his downward header was kept out by the feet of Čech. Soon afterwards, Kuyt went even closer with a header that came back off the crossbar. With so much at stake, errors were commonplace and what the game lacked in fluidity, it more than made up for with intensity.
Determined to fight back, Chelsea went within a whisker of levelling matters on the night when full-back Ashley Cole raided down the left in the 75th minute and cut the ball inside from the byline; Jamie Carragher, in an attempt to deny Drogba, connected from three metres out and saw his clearance skim over the top. As play and the psychological pendulum swung this way and that, Zenden brought another save from Čech, yet the clocked eventually ticked down to 90 without further score, prompting extra time.
Kuyt found the net in the first additional period but an offside flag ruled his effort out after he had followed up Čech's parry from substitute Alonso's stinging drive. Čech frustrated Kuyt again after the stretching Drogba was centimetres away from turning in Shaun Wright-Phillips's enticing centre. Tired minds and weary legs failed to conjure a match-winner, however, and penalties beckoned at the Anfield Road End. Here, Kuyt did get his winning goal and, for the seventh time in their history, Liverpool are through to the European Champion Clubs' Cup final; Chelsea, beaten at this stage for the third time since 2004, still await their first.