Blues put one foot in semis
Chelsea have taken pole position to make the last four after claiming a 3-1 victory against Liverpool.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 08/04/09 10:07pm
Chelsea have taken pole position to make the last four of the UEFA Champions League after claiming a 3-1 victory against Liverpool on Wednesday.
Liverpool enjoyed a dream start when star striker Fernando Torres gave the hosts the lead with just six minutes gone.
But what began like a typical Anfield fairytale soon turned into a total nightmare when an unlikely brace from Branislav Ivanovic and a second-half Didier Drogba strike put the Reds' Rome hopes in dire straits.
The one blip on the night for Guus Hiddink was a yellow card for captain John Terry, who will now miss the return leg next Tuesday.
Otherwise it was a near-perfect result for the team in Blue, who bar a near miracle, should be pitted against Barcelona in the next round after the Spanish giants hammered Bayern Munich 4-0 in their first leg clash.
A mammoth task awaits Reds boss Rafa Benitez after a miserable night for Kopites around the globe, but the first-leg of this now-becoming annual European fixture will most definitely be remembered as one for the purists.
Benitez's pre-match barbs towards Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson suggested the Spanish tactician was more concerned about the Premier League title race than success in Europe.
But Anfield on a big European occasion stirs the soul like no other venue and, with Liverpool seeking revenge for last season's semi-final exit against Chelsea, it was no surprise to see Benitez's side make a ferocious start.
From Liverpool's first attack, Ivanovic almost deflected Dirk Kuyt's powerful strike into his own goal.
If that was a fortunate escape for Chelsea, they had no such luck in the sixth minute as Liverpool sliced through their defence in clinical fashion.
Kuyt's back-heel picked out Alvaro Arbeloa on the right and his cross caught the Blues flat-footed. Torres took full advantage to steer a perfectly placed shot past Petr Cech.
Anfield went wild but, with the celebrations still in full swing, Drogba had a golden opportunity to silence the Kop. Fabio Aurelio's error allowed Salomon Kalou to pick out Drogba, but with just Jose Reina to beat his shot was too close to the Liverpool keeper.
These English powerhouses were meeting for the fifth successive season in Europe and, while previous ties have often been stifled by both sides' caution, this was an open encounter.
Torres was terrifying the visitors' defence with his pace and movement. He pulled clear of Frank Lampard before curling a long-range strike just over.
Drogba's first miss had been bad enough but the Ivory Coast star was guilty of an even worse effort in the 30th minute. When Michael Ballack whipped in a low cross, Drogba had Reina's goal at his mercy, yet he lashed over from no more than 10 yards.
After such a frenetic opening, Liverpool were beginning to falter and Chelsea, sensing blood, equalised in the 39th minute when Ivanovic met Florent Malouda's corner with an emphatic header that flashed past Reina.
Drogba threatened again when he overpowered Martin Skrtel to reach Lampard's pass and slid his shot past Reina, only for Jamie Carragher to make a superb goal-line clearance.
Then Terry, one booking away from a suspension, rashly challenged Reina for a ball the keeper was clearly going to win. Both players fell to the turf but when Terry got up Danish referee Claus Bo Larsen was waiting with a booking that rules him out of the return leg.
Just as the momentum appeared to have swung in Liverpool's favour, Chelsea took the lead in the 62nd minute from another set-piece.
When Lampard curled over a corner, Liverpool, marking zonally rather than man-to-man, allowed Ivanovic a clear run at the ball. Once again he made them pay with a bullet header past Reina.Liverpool were shell-shocked and there was worse to come. Five minutes later Ballack played in Malouda, whose low cross was turned in by Drogba from close-range.
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|4||Shots on Target||9|
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