Tuesday, May 01, 2007

See you in Athens: Liverpool win the semifinal over Chelsea

Anfield was the scenario for a really intense game. and Liverpool was the team that won the ticket to Athens. The Reds beat Chelsea in the penalty shootout, right after a 1-0 victory that tied the leg. Dirk Kuyt scored the crucial shot for Liverpool to clinch the 4-1 victory on penalties while Arjen Robben and Geremi failed in their bid for Mourinho's side.

In fact, the game began with much excitement. Referee Gonz├ílez whistled up for nine fouls in the first 13 minutes -- Liverpool 5 Chelsea 4, but it was Liverpool who grabbed the first real chance in the game when Agger scored in the 22nd minute. There weren’t too many chances for the rest of the match. Powerful striker Peter Crouch's header in the 55th minute was saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech and Dirk Kuyt's heading against the Chelsea crossbar in the 59th minute saved yet again by keeper Cech.

And Chelsea almost scored just before the break when Essien almost diverted a Drogba header in the 32 minute, but it was not to be. Neither squad could force the elusive goal in the normal time adding to the premium of the 30 minutes of overtime. It's fair to say that Liverpool came the closest, but it all eventually boiled down to the penalty shootout.

Dutch footballer Zenden scored the first, Robben missed for the blues but Alonso scored. Finally, Lampard was the sole success for Chelsea FC and Kuyt's final effort put Chelsea out the tournament while Liverpool head to the finals where they will meet either Italian powerhouse AC Milan or English favorites Manchester United on May 23 in Athens. The best part of the Champions League has just begun.

AC Milan fans can be important in the semifinal against Manchester United

Italian hope. AC Milan players are convinced that the San Siro crowd can roar them to the Champions League final as they look to overturn a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United here tonight.

Indeed, ManU edged the first leg of a pulsating semi-final at Old Trafford, but Milan's two away goals, both scored by Brazilian talent Kaka, means a 1-0 win will be enough for the Italian team to reach the Athens final on May 23.

Milan's talented player midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who has been passed fit to play after recovering from the foot injury he suffered in the first leg, is counting on the home support to be their 12th player.

"It's fantastic to know that our fans are always there for us and they always cheer us on," said the 29-year-old Italian World Cup winner.

"This time it's special though, as they have to give us an incredible hand. We will give our all, but they have to take us even further."

Also Dutch player Clarence Seedorf, Gattuso's midfield partner, believes the Milan crowd will not let them down: "The supporters are even more passionate than we are".

However, Milan captain Paolo Maldini is battling to be fit after aggravating the knee injury at Old Trafford which forced him to come off at half time.

The Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti has hinted he will drop striker Alberto Gilardino, anonymous in the first leg, in favour of veteran striker Filippo Inzaghi.

"in fact, Gilardino has only scored one goal in the Champions League and that highlights the difference between that competition and the league," Ancelotti admitted.

"I think there's more pressure on strikers to score in the Champions League, and Gilardino is not experienced enough yet to cope with that."

It's very important to notice that Manchester United come into the match on a real high after moving five points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premiership on Saturday with just three games to go, and having reached the English FA Cup final.

"Indeed, we are in a magnificent situation and we go to the San Siro with our morale sky high," said the popular Alex Ferguson after his side fought back from 2-0 down at Everton to win 4-2 on Saturday.

"We have to think of the team, and Paul Scholes has to make sure he doesn't get booked, that's without question," Ferguson explained. "The advice we gave him in the first leg was not to slide in and make tackles because that's where he gets all his bookings.

"In Europe, they just don't accept it, sliding in. So if he stays on his feet and tackles properly there will be no problem."

Furthermore, Alex Ferguson accepts his injury-ridden defence will struggle to deny Milan in their own stadium, but he has backed his own team to score at least once.

"I really don't agree with the view that it is vital we don't go over there and concede," he said. "I wouldn't say we are favourites, but I think we have given ourselves a great chance. A goal lead is a very good start in European football, and I think there will be good counter-attack possibilities in our squad".

We must remember that AC Milan are aiming to reach their 10th Champions League final and the Red Devils their third.