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Chelsea survive Liverpool onslaught
The Blues put fans' nerves through the shredder - allowing Liverpool a 2-0 lead by half time and then after going ahead on the night, coming within a single goal of defeat before Frank Lampard eventually calms it down.

It took until the 88th minute before the stand-in skipper restored a two-goal advantage. He had come on strong in the second-half, earlier netting to make it 3-2 on the night - Didier Drogba and then a stunning Alex free-kick having levelled it at 2-2 following a first half when Chelsea were all at sea.

And as they had in the first-half, Liverpool found a burst of two goals as the game entered its final 10 minutes to keep the drama coming and coming in one of the most open and amazing games in Champions League history.

Both teams played the game without their club captain. The big team news before the game had involved Liverpool for whom Gerrard had failed to recover from his groin problem.

Wideman Riera, ineffective at Anfield, was replaced by Benayoun on the left with Kuyt staying on the left as Liverpool lined-up 4-3-3.

For Chelsea the one change from the first leg was the expected one, Carvalho in for suspended Terry. Michael Essien returned having been rested from the weekend win over Bolton and anchored midfield. Ballack played ahead but close to the Ghanaian than Lampard who was aiming to support Drogba.

The first 10 minutes were without incident, Drogba needing treatment after a challenge near the touchline apart.

Carvalho won his first chase with Torres comfortably enough and Cech punched clear a free-kick from deep, although not with the full contact he was seeking.

Then on 12 minutes Chelsea were opened up for the first Liverpool chance - and a very presentable one it was too. Benayoun back-heeled on Kuyt's ball to Torres in a move so similar to Liverpool's first goal in last season's corresponding match.

This time the Spaniard made space for the shot but blasted wide.

A minute later Chelsea won a free-kick 30 yards out which Lampard caught well and sent low and close to Reina's near-post. Little did the noisy home crown know that would be the closest the team would go in the opening 45 minutes.

From the next free-kick, Liverpool netted the first goal. The position looked without huge threat, wide over on the left, about 10 yards from the area.

But as all Chelsea appeared to prepare for the high ball into the area, Aurelio hit it low at the near post and caught Cech too far across to make it back.

It looked a horrible mess by the Blues, and now the pressure was starting to build. There were 18 minutes gone.

Liverpool worked the ball into the Chelsea box via Torres on 25 minutes but the pass bounced away from Benayoun.

The away side were without doubt on top and they made it count when a 27th minute free-kick was this time swung in high and Ivanovic, with his arms around Alonso, was judged to have wrestled the Liverpool midfielder too much.

From the penalty awarded, Alonso netted with Cech falling the other way.

Hiddink soon decided something had to change. Kalou was withdrawn in favour of Anelka with 35 minutes on the clock. There was no change in shape.

Chelsea instantly worked a half-chance although it was Drogba who nodded on for a stretching Lampard to head wide.

Benayoun became the first booking of the game for barging over Anelka as he began to run at the Liverpool rearguard.

Carvalho made an important clearance in front of goal two minutes before the break and won a header strongly when a corner followed.

Then Kuyt saw a header clawed out by Cech before a scramble in the six-yard box ended with a Liverpool foul - to great relief.

There was so much crucial work for Guus Hiddink to do during the interval to sort this one out.

The second half did not start promisingly, Anelka and Cech allowing Lucas to collect a ball between them and with our keeper out of position, Arbeloa crossed, thankfully too strongly.

Equally thankfully the Stamford Bridge crowd only had to wait five minutes into the second half for a tension-easing goal by their team.

Anelka was much involved, advancing down the right and crossing low and hard to the near post where Drogba and his marker slid in. It was our man who got the touch on-target which rather than save, Reina turned over the line.

'Are you Riise in disguise?' sang the sympathetic home support.

On 55 minutes, Drogba almost levelled it, sending a 25-yard free kick only a yard wide with the keeper nowhere.

A minute later and from five yards further out, Alex did find the target - spectacularly - giving the leaping Reina no chance as the ball swerved and flew past the Spaniard.

That made it 2-2 on the night.

On 62 minutes, Liverpool managed their first shot of the half, Cech saving well from Mascherano's low effort.

Then came one moment of bad news out of the game - Ashley Cole was booked for blocking an Arbeloa run and will miss the first leg in Barcelona against Messi and co. Carvalho had seen a yellow card earlier in the half; Ivanovic also for his penalty conceding goal.

Ballack had a great chance for Chelsea's third after excellent work by Malouda and Drogba but shot straight at the keeper.

The German did a lot better in the 76th minute in sending Chelsea on the way to a lead. He intercepted a pass and sent Drogba away on the left to pick out Lampard who was never going miss from 10 yards out for his 18th of the season.

A Ballack free-kick went close and it only looked like Chelsea goals from here on in. Benitez appeared to throw in the towel by throwing N'Gog on for Torres.

However Liverpool hit back with a two-goal salvo in just two minutes, the first with a touch of fortune for the visitors as Lucas's shot deflected off Essien past a helpless Cech.

That was on 80 minutes to level up the away goals. Before anyone could settle, Kuyt headed a Riera cross that had been worked past Ivanovic and it was 6-5 on aggregate.

Now just one more Liverpool goal would win it. Scary stuff!

What joy then when with just two minutes to the end of normal time, Drogba and Anelka out manoeuvred Liverpool down our right and Lampard smashed in his second via both posts.

It was 4-4, and coach's worst nightmare but a two-goal cushion had been restored. However before most had time to even work out the score, Essien was back heading off the line from an N'Gog shot.

The final whistle was greeted by a breathless crowd. A knees-up to Madness's 'One Step Beyond' followed, just as it had when we knocked Barcelona out in 2005.

The same team now stands between Chelsea and a second Champions League Final.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole; Ballack, Essien; Kalou (Anelka 35), Lampard (c), Malouda; Drogba (Di Santo 90+3).
Scorers Drogba 50, Alex 56, Lampard 75, 88.
Booked Ivanovic 18, Carvalho 58, Cole 65.


Liverpool (4-3-3): Reina; Arbeloa (Babel 84), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Mascherano (Riera 69), Alonso Lucas; Kuyt, Torres (N'Gog 79), Benayoun.
Scorers Aurelio 18, Alonso 27 (pen), Lucas 80, Kuyt 82.
Booked Benayoun 40, Arbeloa 73.
 
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