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NO GHOST goals to bemoan this time, nothing whatsoever to complain about.
Just another night to leave Jose Mourinho haunted by Rafa Benitez' semi-final curse over him and Chelsea wondering if they will ever take the ultimate step to Champions League glory. Maybe it needed the heartbreak of penalties to separate two sides who had slugged each other to a standstill over three-and-a-half hours as Anfield watched on rapt with shredded nerves and sheer desire. But Daniel Agger's first-half strike was the very least that Liverpool had deserved against a Chelsea side who must feel that Lady Luck, as well as absent owner Roman Abramovich, has abandoned them in their hour of greatest need. As Pepe Reina guessed right against Arjen Robben and Geremi to give Dirk Kuyt the opportunity to extend Benitez' incredible semi-final record and send Liverpool to Athens in search of a sixth European crown, it was more than just Chelsea's flickering Quadruple dream that disappeared. It was Mourinho's sense of certainty too and, perhaps, despite last month's peace pact with the board, his hold on the job he did not want to lose. The Portuguese can point to the missing men - Ricardo Carvalho in particular while, pointedly, Andriy Shevchenko was in the directors' box to watch his team-mates stutter, stumble and eventually fall to another devastating defeat at the hands of Mourinho's arch-nemesis. But there was something else missing last night, the passion and determination that has powered the Blues to the very point of glory and then deserted them when it was required against Bolton and again at Anfield. Driven on by Steven Gerrard, and aided and abetted by Javier Mascherano, Liverpool called all the shots. Chelsea did not help themselves, with drama queen Didier Drogba isolated up front, while the absence of Carvalho alongside the resolute John Terry always looked as if it might be costly. Even so, the nature of the goal Liverpool scored to level the tie will be enough to torture Mourinho for many a year. Joe Cole was lucky to escape sanction for the wild scythe on Gerrard wide on the left but the real punishment was meted out from the free-kick. Chelsea picked up all the red shirts inside the box but failed to spot Agger pulling short and, when Gerrard caught the Blues unawares with a square ball along the 18-yard line, the unmarked Dane swept first time left-footed past Petr Cech to send Anfield into ecstasy. It at least sparked Chelsea into some sort of action and they had their best spell of the game at the end of the first half. But while the Blues attempted to replicate at the start of the second period, they were driven backwards, with Cech's goal leading a charmed life twice in as many minutes. Peter Crouch had been kept under lock and key by Michael Essien for much of the game, but when Jermaine Pennant destroyed the woeful Claude Makelele and floated a peach of a ball to the far post, the England man rose above his marker and Paulo Ferreira to head down but against the keeper's legs, as Terry hacked away. Then when John Arne Riise delivered from the other flank, Kuyt powered in a header which beat Cech all ends up but bounced back off the bar. As the teams went into extra time, fate favoured Chelsea when Kuyt was ruled fractionally offside - the call could so easily have gone the other way - after Cech fumbled the strike from substitute Xabi Alonso. Yet if Jamie Carragher had not eased himself in front of Drogba as Shaun Wright-Phillips slid across the box 10 minutes from the end of the additional 30, Reina would not have had the chance to perform his spot-kick acrobatics. But Carragher did and, when it mattered, Reina did too, the hero of Cardiff last May denying Robben and Geremi, and giving Kuyt the opportunity to strike the final, fatal, unanswerable blow. For Mourinho and his men, the season that promised so much just five days ago now boils down to a Premiership prayer, a trip to Wembley and a Carling Cup which has already lost its lustre. Not enough and hard to believe that will satisfy Abramovich, even if he could not be bothered to attend. For Liverpool, though, it was all about another achievement against the odds. Now they turn their attentions to what lies ahead on May 23. Benitez versus Fergie? Do you think Jose could bear to watch that? ATTENDANCE: 42,554 MAN OF THE MATCH: Carragher This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the views or position of Liverpool Football Club.

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