Chelsea will join Manchester United in the first ever all-England Champions League final. Chelsea took out Liverpool yesterday in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory (4-3 on aggregrate). Didier Drogba scored two goals and was a constant menace, proving he’s not just a diver, as Liverpool’s manager Rafi Benitez has suggested. Frank Lampard, playing despite the death last week of his mother, smashed home a penalty kick in overtime and contributed to Drogba’s first goal with a defense-splitting pass, one of several he delivered.
As I pleased as I was to see Liverpool lose, I was happier to see three goals in overtime. So often the extra period ends with no scoring, and we wind up with penalty kicks. It’s a credit to both sides that they saved some of their best football for the extra 30 minutes.
There are those, and I’m one of them, who like to complain about how lucky Liverpool is. And the Shite certainly rode a fair amount of luck to get past Arsenal and into the semi-finals. But the real reason for Liverpool’s success in Europe over the years is the team’s refusal to be intimidated in big games before hostile crowds and its unwillingness ever to give up. Both qualities were amply on display yesterday. Thus, a club that has been unable for years to score at Chelsea’s home fortress put in two yesterday, both in response to Chelsea taking the lead. In fact, Liverpool dominated the second half.
As for Chelsea, one would think that yesterday’s victory, coupled with Saturday’s win over Manchester United that pulled the club level on points with Man U, would serve as vindication for much-maligned Israeli manager Avram Grant. But despite the fact that Grant has succeeded where his revered predecessor Jose Mourninho failed (to get past Liverpool and into the Champions League final), Mourinho’s predecessor Claudio Ranieri may well be right in predicting that Chelsea must defeat Man U in Moscow for Grant to keep his job.