Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chelsea-Liverpool Recap

Chelsea and Liverpool finally delivered the classic contest the Champions League semifinals had been waiting for, and in the end the Blues emerged with a 3-2 extra time victory that sends them to their first ever Champions League Final. While Didier Drogba's bookend goals included the game winner in the 105th minute, the game may best be remembered for the emotional penalty kick by Frank Lampard that gave the home team a lead they would not relinquish.

Moments after Chelsea had a goal disallowed on an offsides (a play in which no fewer than four Chelsea players were ahead of the defense), Sami Hyypia brought down Michael Ballack in the box to give the Blues a lifeline. Although Lampard is the normal PK man for Chelsea, it was reasonable to assume another player might step forward given Lampard's recent absence due to the death of his mother. But the determined Lampard never hesitated, and his genuine display of emotion was touching regardless of who you were supporting.

Seven minutes later, Drogba put the game away with his second tally. While a late strike from Ryan Babel (courtesy of a goaltending gaffe from Petr Cech) gave the Reds hope, there was no magic finish for Rafa Benitez's men on this night.

No team has accomplished more the past four years without reaching Europe's promised land than Chelsea, so the trip to Moscow is well deserved for the squad and their coach, Avram Grant. Hardly the fan favorite, Grant did something his predecessor Jose Mourinho could not- knock off Liverpool and take the Blues to their first ever Champions League Final.

So now a fascinating three weeks await Chelsea and Manchester United. Two games each to decide the Premier League and one night in Moscow to crown the champion of Europe.

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