Chelsea, Liverpool play out thriller

Last updated 09:18 15/04/2009
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Chelsea's Didier Drogba celebrates his goal against Liverpool during their Champions League quarter-final clash.

Goal's galore between English giants

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Chelsea have held on to get past Liverpool and advance to the semifinals of the Champions League after a memorable 4-4 draw gave the London club a 7-5 win on aggregate.

Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso scored in the first 28 minutes to give Liverpool hope in the second leg of the quarterfinals, but Frank Lampard ended up with two goals for Chelsea and Alex and Didier Drogba added the others. Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt also scored late, but the 3-1 loss at home in the first leg proved too much to overcome.

"We felt really down because we didn't play in the first half," Drogba said. "Maybe we lost our nerve."

Chelsea will face Barcelona in the semifinals, with the first leg at the Nou Camp on April 28.

Both teams were missing their captains. Chelsea defender John Terry was suspended and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard was rested as he recovers from a groin injury.

Liverpool's success often relies on the attacking threat provided when Gerrard works in tandem with Fernando Torres, but the Reds didn't have that even though they needed at least three goals to advance. They managed to get the goals - the first time they scored more than two at Stamford Bridge in 20 years - but it wasn't enough.

Aurelio started things off for Liverpool, exploiting a gaping hole in the Chelsea defense to score in the 19th from a free kick on the right flank. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had drifted across to the right expecting Aurelio to cross high into the penalty area. Instead, the Brazil defender sent the ball low past the one-man wall and inside the exposed near post.

Aurelio's next free kick helped to provide the second. Branislav Ivanovic, whose two goals in the first leg had put Chelsea in control, hauled down Xabi Alonso with both hands as the ball was floated into the box.

Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo pointed to the penalty spot and Alonso slotted past Cech.

"We made it very hard for us with our first-half performance," Lampard said.

Cech nearly gifted Liverpool a third goal on either side of halftime, but it was counterpart Pepe Reina who fumbled the ball into his own net in the 51st to give Chelsea its first goal of the match.

Nicolas Anelka crossed low from the right flank and Drogba nudged it inside the near post under pressure from Martin Skrtel and, despite initially blocking it, Reina bumbled it over the line.

Chelsea soon made it 2-2 when Alex scored with swerving free kick from the same central position Drogba had just missed from.

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In the 76th, Frank Lampard seized on Alonso's weak clearance to release Drogba and the ball was returned to the England midfielder in an unmarked central position to make it 3-2.

But Liverpool came back with two goals in minute. Leiva made it 3-3 in the 81st with a long-range strike that was deflected into the opposite corner by Michael Essien, and Dirk Kuyt met Albert Riera's cross with a powerful header.

Lampard finished off the Reds in the 89th, however, sending Chelsea through to meet Barcelona, which advanced 5-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich.

-AP

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