The Reds deservedly went through to the FA Cup final with a more than convincing two one win over Chelsea. A full Old Trafford ground saw the two sides go head to head for a fifth time this season. The atmosphere was upped before the game and the pressure was really on.
The Reds defended the end with their own fans in during the first half and kicked off. Chelsea lined up with a very narrow formation and the first thoughts as you sat their were that we could get at their back line using the full width of the pitch. With a player like Harry Kewell on the pitch for the Reds we had a perfect man for the job as well. On five minutes Kewell did attack his man only to see his cross go just to far in front of Crouch and Garcia.
At the other end a couple of minutes later Hyypia nearly set up Crespo but the Reds managed to clear for a corner from which Drogba headed wide of the goal. On thirteen minutes the Reds nearly scored through Alonso. His cross-shot with pace nearly had Cudicini beaten. One touch either way would probably have done the trick but Cudicini managed to deflect the ball away to safety.
The Reds were the better side and dominating the midfield by using good width and trying to get Kewell on the ball whenever possible. On eighteen minutes though the Reds really should have gone behind when Drogba came back from an offside position to get on to a ball. With only Reina to beat he somehow spooned the ball wide and he became a laughing stock in front of the travelling Kop.
The Reds took the lead minutes after the Drogba chance and it was well deserved as well. The Reds were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area as Terry lunged with studs showing towards Garcia. It was a lucky free kick but you take what you get like that. John Arne Riise rolled the ball to Gerrard who stopped it and Riise then bent the ball through the wall and in to the back of the net. A great goal for the Reds and they were away.
The Reds went from strength to strength with the goal. Harry Kewell picked the ball up on the right hand side on twenty six minutes and ran at his man. He took him on and cut inside the box but his low shot failed to trouble the keeper.
On thirty four minutes the Reds had another opportunity. This time it was thanks to a loose back header from Terry which gave Crouch a chance to challenge the keeper. Both men collided but as Terry cleared the ball both men stayed down and needed treatment. For some reason Crouch had to go off the pitch to come back on at this point. Someone explain this rule when in this instance a man from both sides goes down and just because one is a keeper he stays on but the other goes off.
The Reds continued to dominate the play and look the side more likely to score a second than Chelsea equalise. On forty one minutes Chelsea conceded a free kick on the left side as Geremi stood on Alonso. The game seemed to be simmering just below boiling point for a time as Chelsea seemed to think the whole world was against them.
In first half stoppage time Garcia really should have doubled the Reds' lead. Kewell found himself in acres of space again and put in a deep cross to the back post. Gerrard took the ball down and after taking on Del Horno pulled the ball back for Garcia but the Spaniard skied his shot way over the bar.
The half time interval saw one Chelsea change with Del Horno staying off the pitch and Arjen the diver Robben coming on. Chelsea got the game underway again as the Reds looked to build on their lead. The fear was that non stop pressure would come the Reds' way now but it didn't materialise straight away. The Reds continued to be the better side.
That said Chelsea did have the ball in the net on forty nine minutes. Arjen Robben whipped in a superb free kick which John Terry headed in at the back post. However Graham poll was quick to disallow the goal for climbing on Riise and in fairness Terry didn't complain too much.
On fifty three minutes the Reds converted their dominance to a second goal. Steve Finnan took a throw from just inside his own half. Two Chelsea headers later and Garcia was on a free run to goal. Just as Terry closed in Garcia hit an absolute pearler to send the Reds into cup final heaven.
The Reds went from strength to strength now and forced Chelsea in to all the right moves to get them back in to it. On the hour mark Kewell broke down the left and chipped a ball for Garcia on the edge of the box. Garcia lashed a volley on target but Cudicini put it round for a corner.
Chelsea were quick to make the changes and Cole and Duff soon replaced Geremi and Crespo. The move did finally give some impetus to the Blues but the two goal cushion was good for the Reds to have. On sixty eight minutes Robben went on a great run where he took on three Reds before shooting straight at Reina. It was a warning sign though. The Reds then brought on Cisse for Crouch as the Reds looked to use the players pace on the counter.
Chelsea got a foot hold back in to the game on seventy minutes as Drogba headed a goal which was so avoidable. Riise headed a cross straight up in to the air where Reina tried to stretch to but missed and Drogba headed in to the empty net. Now it was certainly game on.
Chelsea now threw everything at the Reds. We just didn't get hold of the ball enough for a period but in all the time Reina was rarely called in to exceptional play. The Reds were forced in to another change on seventy six minutes when Kewell went down injured. Kewell hobbled off with the physio but the Reds' change wasn't quite ready. A minute later and Traore came on to restore the eleven-a-side.
Jose Reina picked up a yellow card on eighty minutes when he was adjudged to have time wasted - which was probably right. Morientes came on for the last nine minutes in place of Garcia to freshen things up and did more in that time then Cisse did in all his time avoiding the ball.
On eighty seven minutes the Reds were temporarily down to nine men as Sissoko went down injured. He limped off with the physio and Gerard followed suit with cramp. The Reds though were soon back to full strength again.
There were five minutes of added time at the end of the game but for all that time Chelsea created one golden chance. In the final minute Joe Cole found himself free in the area just eight yards out only to lash his shot over the bar.
As the final whistle blew the Reds all raced down to the Reds fans and celebrated another trip to Cardiff. Some of them were there for the first cup final in Cardiff and some will return for the last one as well. A great win and one that the Reds well and truly deserved.
MotM : Harry Kewell - took advantage of the space given to him and showed his great potential going forward. Hyypia and Carragher were there usual rocks at the back and Sissoko again broke up so much of the play.