Riise 90 og
Chelsea began this tie having had an extra couple of days to prepare. Next they won the toss thus consigning us to attacking The Kop in the first half and then, just as it looked as if they were gong to have a difficult(ish) task at Stamford Bridge, the last head of the game gave them a lifeline. One shouldn’t complain, over the years we had our fair share of breaks in this competition so maybe it’s Chelsea’s turn – a bit of fate or luck suggesting their name is on the cup? Don’t you believe it, not yet!
If anyone was hoping that his game would be different from the previous semi finals they were to be disappointed. Once more it was a tight, messy game punctuated by niggly fouls, poor passing and many mistakes. Both sides had chances to win the game but perhaps the occasion got to them? Free flowing moves and thinking stifled by the tension of the occasion? The only difference is that we dominated for long periods but failed to turn this to our advantage. Still, despite the away goal we still have grounds to be confident about the return leg. Sound familiar Arsenal fans?
The game began with Tom Hicks singing along to You’ll Never Walk Alone” sorry, but you will. The first fifteen minutes proved to be unmemorable. Chelsea wasted a free kick and a corner and Gerrard had a snap shot that only the most generous would describe as a chance. The tension and lack of space was illustrated by the opportunity that fell to Dirk Kuyt. Put in via an excellent Alonso ball the Dutchman’s first touch was bad but, before he could even think about recovering, Chelsea defenders were swarming all over him to tidy up.
The first decent chance game in the 28th minute when Torres was set free by Gerrard’s excellent through ball. However, the extra touch taken by the Spaniard allowed Cech crucial preparation time to get the block in. Prior to this Chelsea claimed a penalty when Drogba and Carragher collided. This was the first of a number of such claims by both sides. Fussier referees might have given them but on the whole I think things evened themselves out over the course of the game.
The goal was a scrappy affair and not one Chelsea defenders will care to remember. Caught off guard by Alonso’s quick free kick they failed to properly deal with Kuyt’s cross. Mascherano scooped the ball back into the area more by accident than design and Kuyt stole in when he had no right to and squeezed the ball through Cech’s legs. To add to the calamity Babel was clearly offside but was, I assume, judged as not interfering with play?
Into the second half ahead and it looked like a another goal was only a matter of time. Alonso had a long range effort poked away and Ryan Babel also went close firing just wide. Chelsea were not only in danger of losing the game but also the tie. They conceded possession far too easily. Drogba did no look fully recovered from his injury and was unable to physically dominate Srktel like he did Agger in last season’s first leg. Lampard and Joe Cole also looked out of sorts. However, slowly they found something and began to get back in the game and should have squared it when they opened us up only for Malouda to squander the chance. Later Lampard set up Ballack but Reina easily dealt with his tepid header.
Towards the end we missed what could prove to be two costly chances. Gerrard stretched Cech with a volley that was arrowing towards the top corner. The keeper again saved his team with an excellent close range save from Torres. All that remained was for Kalou to cross the ball and for poor old Johnny Riise to head past Reina.
One has to feel desperately sorry for Riise who is, by his standards, having a wretched season. Could he have lashed the ball into The Kop? Why did he choose to head it? These are pointless questions and only serve to make him feel worse when we should be encouraging and getting behind him?
After the game Rafa complained about various aspects of the referee’s performance but we have to move on and concentrate on the second leg. Chelsea have an away goal but at least our task is clear. They have the advantage but one goal from us and it’s game on again. Even though Chelsea are undefeated at home, and we’ve been goal shy there lately, the chances we created tonight prove there is nothing to be scared of. Mr Abramovich should not start packing for home just yet!
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Riise 61), Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, Babel (Benayoun 75), Gerrard, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Crouch, Pennant, Lucas.
Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Makelele, Ballack (Anelka 86), Joe Cole (Kalou 63), Drogba, Malouda.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Shevchenko, Obi, Alex, Belletti.