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Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-0 on agg)
3rd May 2005 (19:45) at Anfield

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A memorable night

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Garcia 4

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Anfield has a new crop of legends. Twenty years after their last appearance in the European Cup final ended in tragedy at Heysel, Liverpool are finally - and deservedly - back.

Luis Garcia's fourth-minute strike was enough to secure a dramatic victory against Chelsea as the Blues endured the pain of a second consecutive semi-final defeat.

However, that was just half the story on a night of sheer, gut-wrenching, spine-tingling emotional drama.

While history can sometimes cripple a club with expectation, it can also be inspirational and this was yet another European glory night to savour at Anfield.

From Inter Milan in 1965, to Bruges in 1976, St Etienne in 1977 and, more recently, Barcelona, Roma and Juventus, many sides have buckled in front of the incredible power of the Kop. And so it proved again.

Liverpool, under the astute leadership of Benitez, were carried to victory by their fans as they played their hearts out in providing England with a first Champions League finalist in six years.

Rafa Benitez's side may not have won the competition just yet. Indeed, AC Milan may yet face them in the final.

However this team - an incredible 33 points behind Chelsea in the league - have already over-achieved this season in getting this far. They had been written off by many, but prevailed all the same.

It was new wealth against the aristocracy of English football, a team that won its second title in 100 years just three days earlier against a club with 18 domestic titles and four European Cups.

Chelsea were left to reflect on what could have been, but also what has been. For, with the title added to the Carling Cup, it has still been an historic season for Jose Mourinho's side.

This was nevertheless just one step too far at the end of the marathon.

In truth, the Blues hit the physical wall about two weeks ago and not even Mourinho could inspire them any further as Eidur Gudjohnsen flashed a late chance agonisingly wide.

Chelsea - without either Damien Duff or Arjen Robben - had been faced by a cacophonous atmosphere not matched anywhere else in the country from the moment they walked out.

And just as they had done against Juventus in the quarter-finals, Liverpool were inspired into surging forward straight from the kick-off.

With just over three minutes gone, Steven Gerrard flicked the ball forward and Milan Baros hurtled after it, just managing to lob it over Petr Cech before being brought crashing to the ground.

Referee Michel Lubos refused a penalty but Garcia was onto the ball in a flash, clipping it goalwards, with the spin ensuring William Gallas could not recover in time to hook it off the line.

Now Chelsea really needed to show what they are made of. Instead, they seemed transfixed by the intensity of the occasion and the home side's suffocating pressure.

Liverpool, with Dietmar Hamann in for the suspended Xabi Alonso, were tackling as if their careers depended on it and were winning not only the 50-50 balls, but most of the 40-60 tackles as well.

Then again, Chelsea only had to score once to go through on away goals and there was no need for any panic in their ranks.

Indeed, both sides, with just one frontline striker each, traded blows without ever threatening to break through again before the interval.

Didier Drogba burst onto Joe Cole's pass but could not turn inside the immaculate Jamie Carragher, and Chelsea patently lacked any natural width.

Benitez was living every moment on the touchline, while Mourinho was rather more subdued. But then he had re-energised his side against Fulham and Bolton with motivational half-time team talks.

Once again, Chelsea tried to respond but Liverpool held firm, albeit while rather uncertain about whether to twist or hold.

They soon had little choice. Djibril Cisse was brought on for Baros to provide fresh legs up front, but Mourinho responded with Mateja Kezman and Robben on for Cole and Tiago with 22 minutes left.

With Drogba having curled one free-kick wastefully over the bar and Jerzy Dudek tipping another fierce effort by Lampard around the post Chelsea needed the inspiration of even a half-fit Robben.

Carragher was nevertheless indefatigable, producing one vital block from Robben, although Gerrard soon matched him with a last-ditch tackle on the Dutchman.

There were red shirts everywhere that Chelsea turned.

On came the towering figure of defender Robert Huth for Geremi with 15 minutes, flung up front to unsettle the home side.

Liverpool's hearts fluttered every time that Chelsea broke over the half-way line, but still they held firm.

Two idiotic fans held up play by running onto the pitch - one flinging a flag in Mourinho's face - but even then Liverpool did not lose their composure.

Cisse's shot was deflected wide on the break and Cech denied the striker a second time when clean through. Anfield throbbed in expectation.

The Kop even had to cope with six minutes of injury-time, with Gudjohnsen flashing a shot inches wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy.

Eventually the final whistle blew and Anfield erupted. It was, indeed, the stuff of legends.

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» Teams

Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Hamann (Kewell 72), Biscan, Luis Garcia (Nunez 84), Riise, Gerrard, Baros (Cisse 59).

Subs Not Used: Carson, Smicer, Warnock, Welsh.

Booked: Baros.

Chelsea Cech, Geremi (Huth 76), Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Gallas, Tiago (Kezman 68), Makelele, Lampard, Cole (Robben 68), Drogba, Gudjohnsen.

Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Johnson, Forssell, Nuno Morais. Agg (1-0)

Att: 42,529


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Match Report filed: 13 May 2005
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