For 94 minutes at Anfield tonight Liverpool controlled and at times dominated a match that Chelsea just seemed unable and unlikely to ever get back into. The indicated four minutes of time added on had already passed, the seconds were ticking on and Chelsea had a throw in. Then John Arne Riise had a moment he’ll never forget. But for all the wrong reasons.
Riise headed the ball into his own net from about two feet off the ground. He’ll never be able to explain why he did it.
Hopefully it’ll be the comedy clip on the end-of-season DVD, a gaffe forgiven after the second leg result made it irrelevant. But first Liverpool have to lift their heads and put the disappointment away. They deserved to win this game, they made life difficult for Chelsea, and if they play the same way at Stamford Bridge they’ll be in Moscow in a month’s time. The timing of the goal devastated Liverpool’s players and fans.
Liverpool had led 1-0 from just before half-time, when Dirk Kuyt’s perseverance saw him hit the back of the net, the ball passing under the body of the Chelsea man-of-the-match, goalkeeper Petr Cech, on its way in.
Cech had to work hard to keep Chelsea in it, making saves from the likes of Gerrard and Torres. Reina had barely touched the ball all night.
The goal Chelsea have is an away goal, meaning Liverpool have to score or they’ll go out. Torres was battered tonight by John Terry, who got away with more than would normally be expected in a European tie.
Joe Cole spurned a chance for Chelsea in the first half and Didier Drogba had a penalty appeal turned down. Liverpool had an appeal turned down in the second half after the ball hit Ballack’s arm in the area. Ryan Babel shot from well outside the area and was unlucky to see it turn wide at the last second.
Riise had only come on after Fabio Aurelio had been stretchered off with what seemed to be groin injury around the hour mark. Knowing he had a Chelsea player right behind him as the cross came in following the throw-in, the ball took an awkward bounce, Riise decided heading was better than hitting with his right foot and Chelsea had got a undeserved goal and a draw from nothing for the second time this season at Anfield. Why Riise chose to head it over Reina from such a low height rather than heading it wide only he knows.
Liverpool can come back from this. One Liverpool goal in West London and Riise’s error is forgotten. Two and Chelsea have a real fight on their hands.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 12 Aurelio (6 Riise, 61), 18 Kuyt, 14 Alonso, 20 Mascherano, 19 Babel (11 Benayoun, 75), 8 Gerrard, 9 Torres
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 4 Hyypia, 11 Benayoun, 15 Crouch, 16 Pennant, 21 Lucas
Goals: Kuyt 43
Chelsea: 1 Cech, 20 Ferreira, 6 Carvalho, 26 Terry, 3 A Cole, 8 Lampard, 4 Makelele, 13 Ballack (39 Anelka, 86), 10 J Cole (21 Kalou, 63), 11 Drogba, 15 Malouda
Unused subs: 40 Hilario, 7 Shevchenko, 12 Obi, 33 Alex, 35 Belletti
Booked: Terry 90
Goals: Riise (og) 90
UEFA Stats: (Liverpool – Chelsea)
Shots on: 7 – 3
Shots off: 4 – 4
Corners: 6 – 5
Fouls: 20 – 16
Booked: 0 – 1
Possession: 55% – 45%
BBC Stats: (Liverpool – Chelsea)
Shots on: 11 – 7
Shots off: 2 – 0
Corners: 6 – 5
Fouls: 20 -17
Possession: 53% – 47%
Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria)