Drogba 33, 105 Lampard 98 pen
Torres 64, Babel 117
Well Rafa would have looked a bit daft in one of those fur Russian hats anyway!
It was a game containing plenty of talking points and one that swung one way then the other. However, although we still had grounds to be confident even right at the end when we could have snatched it had more stoppage time been played or the referee given a penalty, Chelsea prevailed.
It’s disappointing but the game cannot begrudge Chelsea their place in the final after two failures against us at this stage of the competition? The thought of what might have been against The Mancs in the final is also counteracted by the horrific thought, if our recent form against them is anything to go by, of er…what might have been!
Rafa kept the changes to a minimum. Benayoun was preferred to Babel and Riise replaced the injured Aurelio. The first chance came after five minutes with Drogba trying to take advantage of the slippy surface by, unsuccessfully, shooting along the ground from distance. After nine minutes we responded but Cech continued to hold sway in his duel with Torres saving well from the Spaniard. Drogba later had a chance from a similar position but didn’t trouble Reina.
I guess we suffered a slight disruption when Skrtel went off injured. Sami Hyypia, his replacement, was arguably at fault for the opening goal by firstly playing Kalou onside and then, through poor positioning, allowing him to cut inside and shoot. Reina saved but Drogba netted the rebound and made his point diving at the corner flag and arrogantly posturing and preening in front of the Liverpool bench. Doing nothing would have classier and would have more of an impact but it’s also lesson for Rafa. Idle pre match prattle about individuals is best left to other managers especially as there is a danger that it might galvanise them into better form?
Despite the goal the only other scare in the half was Ballack’s free kick which hit the net support leaving Reina stranded. We had a couple of half chances. Kuyt’s stabbed shot after good work by Garrard and then Torres was denied from the resulting corner by Drogba’s outstretched leg just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Although Chelsea continued to attack when they could and again, via Essien and Joe Cole, made use of the skidding shot they slowly begin to concede space, sitting back subconsciously protecting their lead and invite us on to them. We didn’t need any more encouragement.
On 63 minutes Benayoun collected the ball and embarked on a mazy cross field run. He beat Makelele, Drogba and evaded Carvalho’s tackle to neatly set up Torres who did the rest.
After that Chelsea were, temporarily at least, snuffed out. Tired because of the hard game against The Mancs or rocked back on their heels after the goal? Essien found time to make a long, weaving run down the right but foolishly tried to shoot from a tight angle when it would have better to cross. Nerves and caution eventually got the better of any attempts to make the decisive move. Extra time.
On the basis of the second half I thought we would be favourites and indeed we had the first chance with Sami heading Gerrard’s corner a foot or so wide. Earlier Riise found himself with acres of space on the left but his cross eluded everyone. However Chelsea discovered an all important second wind. Drogba outwitted Sami only to be denied by a brilliant last ditch tackle from Jamie Carragher. Essien lashed in from seemingly miles out only for the referee to judge Drogba, who was admittedly standing in the way of Reina, to be interfering with play. Does anyone really understand the new off side rule?
Just as we were contemplating what many might see as a bit of luck, a tired Sami, hampered by the conditions, upended Ballack. Lampard stepped up. Few could begrudge him the goal after what he’s been through.
Rafa’s response was to take Torres off and bring on Babel. This created plenty of speculation but subsequently we learnt he had injured his hamstring. However, before we could work out what the plan was, Anelka squared to Drogba and that, seemingly, was that.
As we know it wasn’t. Sami was bought down by Drogba but no penalty and then Babel’s late long, raking effort made it 3-2. All we needed was for John Arne Riise to get the decisive third goal but after Istanbul no one seems to write stories like that anymore!
Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole (Anelka 91), Ballack, Makelele, Lampard (Shevchenko 119), Kalou (Malouda 70), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Obi, Alex, Belletti.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel (Hyypia 22), Riise, Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun (Pennant 78), Gerrard, Torres (Babel 99).
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Finnan, Crouch, Lucas.