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1.5.07

Liverpool is closer to the European Glory as they defeated Chelsea in the semifinals


The Red fans will never forget the emotions they felt this night. Benitez's team defeated Chelsea 4-1 on penalties to reach the Champions League final match for the second time in three seasons yesterday. And that is remarkable

Indeed, Liverpool got their second leg ended 1-0 after extra time with the only goal scored by from Danish defender Daniel Agger after 22 minutes.

And with the tie ending locked in a 1-1 stalemate after Chelsea's 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last week, the stage was set for the first penalty shootout at the semifinal stage since the Champions League replaced the old European Cup in 1992.

It's important to mention that the only goal of a nerve-wracking 120 minutes came following a free-kick from talented captain Steven Gerrard. The midfielder sent a hard-low cross towards the edge of the Chelsea penalty area rather than an expected high ball to the centre of it. Agger played his part perfectly, sweeping in a well-struck shot that swerved just inside the post and into the Chelsea FC net out of the reach of goalkeeper Cech.

Liverpool Spanish manager Rafa Benitez said afterwards: "Every player and every supporter was a real hero tonight. The team all worked very hard - against a very good team. I was confident in the footballers (for the penalties). It's just that they like to practise penalties every day after training."

And Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho admitted: "There is little to say. This is a moment where everyone has to be strong. I think that our players have a lot of reasons to be proud of themselves. We were the best team today, even against a team playing only in the Champions League. Football is like this and we must to be strong to face it."

For the records, Boudewijn Zenden, Xabi Alonso, Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt all converted their penalties for Liverpool while an amazing goalkeeper Pepe Reina saved penalties by Chelsea's Arjen Robben and Geremi to send Liverpool through to the seventh European Cup final in their history against either Manchester United or AC Milan in Athens on May 23.

During the game, the chances were few and far between for both sides with Peter Crouch seeing a header saved by Cech's feet on the line after 55 minutes and Dirk Kuyt heading against the Chelsea crossbar after 59 minutes.

At the other end, African star Didier Drogba drew a fine save from Pepe Reina after 32 minutes. Kuyt had a second goal ruled out for offside in extra time, but scored the final penalty to give Liverpool their 4-1 winning margin.

In fact, Liverpool took the game to Chelsea and made good use of towering striker Peter Crouch and scored from their first scoring with Agger putting them in front in a well-worked move.

Blue midfielder Joe Cole conceded a free kick on the left and Gerrard, instead of lifting the ball high into the area, squared it low for Agger to curve a low first-time shot just inside the post and wide of Cech into the back of the Chelsea net.

And that goal, which looked as if it had come straight from Liverpool's training field, roused Chelsea players from their lethargy and it took a good block by Reds keeper Jose Reina to stop Drogba's angled shot on the run after 32 minutes.

The Anfield fans, which had been belting out their passionate support since kickoff, made sure the atmospere stayed electric as Liverpool FC turned the screw on the English champions.

It's fair to say that Liverpool always looked the hungrier of the two sides, underlined by Boudewijn Zenden's fierce 25-metre shot from the left flank which Cech only gathered at the second attempt. However, there was no breaking the deadlock over two legs, sending the game into extra time and ultimately to the penalty shootout. And then Liverpool just wrote another important page in their history.

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