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Monday, 21 November 2011

Let Me Take You Back ... To 14th April 2009

By Jack Reed

In the week of a fiercely competitive night game at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Liverpool, let me take you back to the 14thof April 2009.

A Champions League quarter final encounter where Chelsea took a commanding 3-1 lead after a brilliant performance at Anfield two weeks before. What unfolded in the second leg is one of the most entertaining Champions League nights there has ever been.

Unfortunately for me, I had to play gig that night. Due to the amazing football match, no one actually bothered to watch us play and watched the football instead, but it could have easily just been that we were rubbish.

Liverpool and Chelsea were no strangers to each other in huge Champions League games having contested semi-finals in both the 2004/2005, and 2006/2007 competitions. Both of which Liverpool progressed to the Final. However Chelsea did the business over the Merseysiders in the previous year’s semi-final.
With Guus Hiddink having the support of all of his players, a 3-1 lead from the away leg and a Steven Gerrard-less Liverpool they were huge favourites.

Seemed that people forgot to tell Liverpool this.They dominated the first half quieting down the Chelsea faithful.

Liverpool won a free kick 30 yards from goal on the right hand side in a crossing position. While that’s what everybody believed accept from Liverpool’s audacious Brazilian full back Fabio Aurelio. 

Cech, anticipating a cross, was caught napping as Aurelio drove a low and hard free kick right inside his near post and Liverpool had the lead with an excellent goal.

Nine minutes later Ivanovic had his hands all over Xabi Alonso and the Spaniard is awarded the penalty. He steps up and smashes it down the middle. Half time and Liverpool are 2-0 up but still trail on the away goals rule.

Chelsea had a lot of work to do and credit has to go to Hiddink for the way the blues conducted themselves at the start of the second half. They were ruthless in attack using their strength a pace to bully a fading Liverpool side.

On the 52nd minute, Nicolas Anelka produced a dangerous run and cross which Didier Drogba was able to flick past Pepe Reina at his near post. Reina was certainly at fault for Chelsea’s first goal, as Cech was for Liverpool’s.

Chelsea won a free kick a good 30 yards from goal. Cometh the hour, cometh the outrageously brutish free kick style of Brazilian defender Alex. He absolutely leathered this ball and it flew into the top corner leaving Reina no chance.

The comeback was completed in the 76th minute when a lovely through ball from Ballack enabled Drogba to cross to Frank Lampard. This may be overstated, but that man is truly the best I have ever seen at drifting unnoticed into the box and he slotted home to all intents and purposes send Chelsea through to the semi-finals.

Liverpool seemed dead and buried but five minutes later a spawny deflected Lucas goal pulled it back to 3-3 on the night.

It was back on when in the 82nd minute, just 1 minute after Lucas’s equaliser, substitute Albert Riera produced a lovely cross with which Dirk Kuyt nodded home. I feel the substitution to bring off Torres and replace him with David Ngog on the 80th minute was purely coincidental in the Liverpool comeback.

Liverpool now just needed one goal to progress and began charging forward leaving gaps at the back. As Stamford Bridge quietly contemplated another horror exit at the hands of Liverpool, Frank Lampard had other ideas. A splendid finish from just outside the box, curling away from Reina as it nestled in net put the night beyond a brave Liverpool side.

It finished 4-4 and Chelsea went through 7-5 on aggregate. Quite a turnaround from the turgid goalless draws and 1-0 scrapes that Mourinho and Benitez had contested in previous years.

The smiles didn’t last long for the Chelsea as they were ousted by Barcelona in a controversial semi-final at the Bridge. You remember the one where they should have had about 24 penalties? But no one can take away a quite breath taking match and performance on that April night in 2009.

Let Me Take You Back... will be a fortnightly feature on Monday's.

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