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NOW that's what people call history. Another memorable Anfield night, another semi-final win over Chelsea, and another Champions League final for Liverpool.
Like in 2005, the Stamford Bridge outfit felt the power of the famous old stadium as Rafael Benitez continued to cast his spell over Jose Mourinho in Europe. The Portuguese had belittled Liverpool during the build-up to the tie. Bad move. Fired up by those comments, the Liverpool players – backed by a raucous Anfield crowd – made Mourinho regret his outburst with a courageous performance to secure a seventh European Cup final appearance. But while the magnificent support from the stands played its part, this was a victory earned on the pitch. Liverpool levelled the tie through Daniel Agger's well-worked 22nd-minute strike before defending resolutely to keep Chelsea scoreless for 120 minutes to force a penalty shoot-out. Indeed, they had the chances to win the game before the penalties with an erroneous offside decision denying Dirk Kuyt a possible winner during extra time. Mourinho thought otherwise, but he was fooling only himself. Liverpool thoroughly deserve a second Champions League final in three seasons, where AC Milan or Manchester United lie in wait in Athens on May 23. Chelsea could well have been out of sight after a first leg last week in which only a fine performance from goalkeeper Pepe Reina kept Liverpool in with a chance. So it was apt the goalkeeper should assume the mantle of hero last night, saving from both Arjen Robben and Geremi in front of the Anfield Road End to allow Kuyt the poetic justice of stroking home the winning penalty and send the Liverpool players racing towards the Kop. Now Reina is poised to follow in the footsteps of his father, who appeared for Atletico Madrid in their European Cup final against Bayern Munich in 1974. For Liverpool's American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, this was the kind of evening for which they’d paid their millions. Both were in attendance, Gillett even coming down to the front of the directors' box before kick-off to shake hands with fans, sign autographs and have pictures taken. He ended the evening by being drenched with champagne after joining Liverpool's jubilant players in the dressing room. Gillett, like Hicks, has been well and truly bitten by the Anfield bug. Mourinho reckoned he was worthy of a round of applause from the Anfield crowd for his belatedly flattering comments on Liverpool. There was, however, about as much chance of that happening as the street vendor outside the ground shifting many of his puzzling Liverpool/Chelsea scarf combinations. Not for the first time, Benitez's tactics and line-up were spot on while Chelsea floundered with depressing long-ball tactics towards the increasingly ineffective Didier Drogba. While the Premiership remains Mourinho's domain, the Portuguese has been continually outsmarted by Benitez in Europe. The Liverpool manager had raised eyebrows by naming Bolo Zenden in midfield at the expense of Alonso who, having missed the corresponding fixture in 2005 through suspension, began on the bench. Zenden will have won a whole army of new admirers after a fine display against his former team. Alonso emerged in the second half to complement a midfield in which Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano dominated Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele and John Obi Mikel. Steve Finnan returned at right-back after missing the last four games with a neck injury, while Peter Crouch partnered Kuyt in attack – the same pairing that tormented Chelsea during Liverpool's 2-0 Premiership win here in January. Like the rest of Benitez's men, the pair ran themselves into the ground with a heroic effort. The Kop was in full voice long before kick-off, and the teams were greeted with a deafening wall of noise akin to that of 2005. While Luis Garcia netted in the fifth minute that evening, the home team had to wait until the 22nd minute to go ahead on the night and level the tie. At least there was no debate about whether it had crossed the line this time. Joe Cole netted the only goal last Wednesday to capitalise on Liverpool's sluggish start, but he was partially responsible for his team going behind after upending Steven Gerrard on the left for a free-kick. In a move straight from the training ground, Gerrard rolled the ball across for the approaching Agger to sidefoot through a group of players from the edge of the area into the bottom corner. Given Agger was heavily criticised being given the runaround by Drogba last week, it was small wonder the Danish centre-back celebrated with such gusto. It was a lead Liverpool merited for a vibrant, high-tempo opening as Chelsea stuck men behind the ball and booted long for Drogba, a defensive tactic Mourinho persisted with all night. Drogba then demonstrated both sides to his game as Chelsea finally began to build some momentum. First, the Ivorian embarrassingly writhed on the turf after being breathed on by Agger, and then solicited a fine block from Reina after Mascherano had given the ball away to Mikel. Chelsea came close again five minutes before half-time when Essien couldn't turn the ball home at the far post after Drogba had headed on a Frank Lampard corner, the effort striking the shoulder of the makeshift centre-back. Liverpool had the next opening on 56 minutes when neat trickery by Jermaine Pennant – the winger an outstanding performer before succumbing to injury – created space for a cross to the far post for Crouch, whose header was blocked by Petr Cech's legs before the ball was hacked away by John Terry. And they were closer moments later when John Arne Riise's left-wing cross was headed on to the crossbar by Kuyt with the Czech international keeper beaten. Drogba then succeeded in earning Agger a caution with some more simulation shenanigans before Liverpool carved out another opening, Terry misjudging a long pass but the ball wouldn't come down quick enough for Pennant, allowing Essien to race over and block his shot. The tension was tangible, especially when, on a rare Chelsea sortie, Ashley Cole found space behind the Liverpool defence and his low cross was turned over by Jamie Carragher inside the six-yard box with Drogba loitering. Zenden struck a 20-yard drive Cech clutched at the second attempt, but no more scoring meant Liverpool chartered new territory at Anfield in this competition with an extra-time period. If Chelsea were tiring from their efforts chasing the quadruple, it didn't show. Liverpool were then deprived of a perfectly good goal on 100 minutes when Alonso's piledriver was parried out to Kuyt, who rattled home. The assistant referee ruled the Dutchman was in an offside position when the initial shot came in; television replays showed otherwise. Benitez's side almost won it with two minutes remaining when Robbie Fowler, on for the exhausted Javier Mascherano, laid the ball off for Kuyt only for Cech to beat out the Dutchman's shot. The finale was so nerve-wracking that Benitez's wife Montse was praying in her seat in the directors' box and looking at the Kop instead of the spot-kicks as the players prepared for the decisive shoot-out. Then came the penalties. Athens need now prepare for a Scouse invasion. LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise; Pennant (Alonso 78), Gerrard, Mascherano (Fowler 118), Zenden; Crouch (Bellamy 106), Kuyt. Subs: Padelli, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Gonzalez. BOOKINGS: Agger and Zenden (both fouls). CHELSEA (4-1-4-1): Cech; Ferreira, Essien, Terry, A Cole; Makelele (Geremi 118); J Cole (Robben 98), Obi Mikel, Lampard, Kalou; Drogba (Wright-Phillips 107). Subs: Cudicini, Bridge, Boulahrouz, Diarra. BOOKING: A Cole (foul). REFEREE: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain). ATT: 42,554. 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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