Chelsea FC finally achieved their dream of a place in the UEFA Champions League final by overcoming Liverpool FC on a night that resonated with high drama and heartfelt emotion. They were taken to extra time, where Didier Drogba scored his second goal after Frank Lampard, making his return to the side following the untimely death of his mother, had swung the tie back Chelsea's way from the penalty spot.
It made it all the more sweet that victory came at the expense of a Liverpool team who had proved their nemesis at this stage on two occasions in the previous three seasons and who drew level at 1-1 through Fernando Torres in the 64th minute. Having dispatched one English rival, Avram Grant's men will take on another in Moscow on 21 May where Manchester United FC await. The two clubs are virtually neck-and-neck in the race for the Premier League; now they will dispute superiority on Europe's grandest stage as well.
Despite the boost given them by John Arne Riise's last-gasp own goal in the first leg, Chelsea were clearly not interested in sitting on their advantage. After a day of incessant rain the surface proved troublesome, although Chelsea kept their feet better and their passes were more assured – Drogba stepping away from Jamie Carragher to unleash a powerful drive that Pepe Reina pushed away. Liverpool's first foray sparked a counterattack in which Yossi Benayoun found Steven Gerrard to set Torres clear, yet Petr Čech was swiftly out to make a smothering save.
The hosts continued to control proceedings and Reina was forced to sprint off his line to thwart Drogba, before being left exposed by Lampard's through pass only for the the Ivorian to drag his low shot beyond the far post. Liverpool's cause was scarcely helped when Martin Škrtel hobbled off to be replaced by Sami Hyypiä. The visitors looked vulnerable and it was no surprise when Chelsea went ahead. Salomon Kalou stretched the defence down the left and forced Reina into a flying save; Drogba was first on the scene and rifled an unstoppable drive in at the near post.
The balance of the game changed perceptibly at the start of the second period as Liverpool suddenly began to push forward and only Čech's outstretched left leg kept Chelsea's lead intact. From a well-worked free-kick, Gerrard nodded on and Dirk Kuyt's flick was heading in before the goalkeeper intervened. Chelsea prepared for the expected onslaught yet came unstuck four minutes past the hour. Benayoun's driving run took him away from four defenders, resulting in a prodded pass through to Torres whose instant low shot found the bottom corner.
Torres almost worked another scoring opportunity as Liverpool sought to exploit their advantage although Michael Essien came closest to averting extra time, shooting into the side-netting from an acute angle. The additional 30 minutes got under way at breathless pace, Hyypiä heading wide before Essien had a goal ruled out for offside by a team-mate. When Hyypiä's lunge felled Ballack in the 98th minute the referee immediately pointed to the spot and Lampard coolly converted, then broke down in tears amid a huddle of jubilant colleagues. Drogba seemed to have put the issue beyond doubt when he expertly turned in Nicolas Anelka's low centre in the 105th minute and, although Ryan Babel gave Liverpool late hope, the London club held firm to spark wild celebrations.