A headed own goal deep into added time by Liverpool FC substitute John Arne Riise rescued a draw for Chelsea FC after Dirk Kuyt's first-half opener had looked like giving the home team a significant advantage in their UEFA Champions League semi-final.
Riise, a 62nd-minute replacement for the injured Fábio Aurélio who has not scored for Liverpool all season, stooped low to try to clear Salomon Kalou's cross from the left, but his awkward header flew past Pepe Reina and into the top of the net – giving Chelsea an away goal they had virtually given up on getting. It could have been so different for Liverpool, had visiting goalkeeper Petr Čech not spectacularly tipped over a late Steven Gerrard drive before denying Fernando Torres seconds before the equaliser.
Both sides were slow to start and the cagey, tactical match predicted by many appeared likely to materialise. Chelsea seemed to have the upper hand thanks to a slightly more measured passing game, until Rafael Benítez's men created the first real opening of the tie. Xabi Alonso's long and hopeful ball over the top of Chelsea's back line found Kuyt, who beat the offside trap but failed to control properly and a combination of Čech and Ricardo Carvalho cleared the danger.
Still, Liverpool frequently struggled to find their rhythm as the half wore on and possession of the ball looked to be a luxury commodity. Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard almost caught the five-time champions off guard with a dangerous crossfield pass which the well-placed Joe Cole, in two minds, was unable to get a true touch on. Torres was presented with an even better opportunity at the other end on 30 minutes after being released by Gerrard, yet the striker could only fire straight at Čech when clean in on goal.
Liverpool's fears were eased by the first goal of the semi-final in the 43rd minute. Kuyt capitalised on confusion between Claude Makelele and Ashley Cole after Javier Mascherano's miscued shot was skied over their heads, keeping both his eye on the ball and his nerve to drive the ball past Čech at the Kop end. The Dutchman's strike had a huge galvanising effect on the home side and on the match in general as the tempo was markedly increased, especially just after the break when the Reds made several threats to move further in front.
Suddenly the likes of Alonso and Ryan Babel could find each other with incisive interchanges that were previously beyond them, and the home crowd turned up the volume again. With Didier Drogba looking an isolated figure up front for Chelsea as he chased in vain a succession of long balls pumped in his direction, a goal for Avram Grant's team seemed more likely to come from midfield. Michael Ballack and Lampard combined to set Florent Malouda free in the box, where Mascherano's last-ditch block kept his effort off target.
The visitors did, however, force the pace as the clock ticked down, although Liverpool might well have doubled their advantage as first Gerrard then Torres tested Čech. Had either of those chances gone in, next Wednesday's second leg would have taken on an altogether different complexion – as it did, to the Londoners' benefit, when Riise beat Reina.