What a fantastic night this was. Liverpool FC is about history in the making and this is one of those games that will live on in history forever. Some teams can only dream of being LFC. A dramatic penalty shoot out win over the money bags and whingeing of Mourinho was special and dumped them out at the semi final stage AGAIN. By the time the penalty shoot out arrived I felt fine - throughout the game though I was feeling that nervous sick but you just had to keep singing and getting behind the Reds. The players know it makes a difference and so do we - that's what set us apart from Chelsea - who try and buy atmosphere.
The atmosphere was electric in the ground as the teams came out after You'll Never Walk Alone had boomed around the ground. The sun was setting above the main stand which proved a bit of nuisance in the early stages of the game. At the end of the night the sun had set over Mourinho's hopes once again though.
Chelsea got the game underway attacking the Kop end in the first half. Within a minute Jamie Carragher was lambasting the Spanish referee to what he thought was a poor dive from Joe Cole. The ref though was having none of it and told Carra to button it. The early play was a bit frantic and devoid of any real quality as you would kind of expect really.
Just before the twenty minute mark Mikel went down injured and after play had gone on for about thirty seconds the ref finally halted play despite it not being a head injury. What wound people up more though was that the ref went over to Mikel and just told him he was getting no treatment unless he walked off. Needless to say the player jumped to his feet and in the next play clattered in to Zenden. It's amazing how many of the Chelsea players try and win headers by jumping at players of the opposition and this was common for a fair few of them. They rarely watched for the ball but rather looked for the man.
The ground erupted on twenty two minutes as the Reds took the lead. Gerrard was hacked down by Joe Cole as he went past him and a free kick was given. Gerrard played the ball square where Agger made a short unmarked run to hit a first time shot in to the bottom corner of the net. Anfield went ballistic as this really set the game up now and Chelsea were on the rack.
Ashley Cole was the first man to be booked on the night after he hacked Pennant down. The ref had a good think before producing the card but he was right to do so. In fairness he'd let a good few tackles go already.
On thirty two minutes there was a big scare for the Reds as Drogba was played in. Inside the area under pressure he blasted a shot at goal but Reina stood up superbly and beat the ball away. Ultimately it proved one of the closest times they actually came to scoring in reality. Despite the nerves about them scoring they never really shone and looked ready to score.
Chelsea did go close again in the first half from a corner when Drogba headed unmarked towards goal. It was flicked on also by Essien who was also unmarked but the chance went wide and we breathed a huge sigh of relief again. Half time came and the game was superbly set.
Half time saw the crowd break out in to You'll Never Walk Alone as the players raced out to re start. After a short huddle called for by Reina when he came out got the players and crowd ready. The Reds got the half underway again and it was all action stations once again. The quality of the play wasn't much better in the second half but the game was still so gripping.
On fifty six minutes a superb cross from Pennant to the back post found Crouch. His header on goal was somehow stopped by Cech and then blasted clear by Terry before anyone could stab the ball home. There were signs there for the Reds that they could do this in normal time. Minutes later and Riise found Kuyt who headed past Cech only to see his header crash off the crossbar and out again.
Agger picked up a booking just after the hour as he caught Drogba. This is one thing Agger will learn alot from though as Drogba is really good at getting free kicks when the balls played long.
On seventy one minutes the Reds had a great opportunity when the ball fell for Pennant but perhaps having taken just a bit too long to make his mind up to shoot Essien got over to block it. As time ticked on though you were always nervous about a goal going in at the other end. On seventy six minutes Carragher somehow prevented a goal when he scooped over from a yard out. He got away with it though as a goal kick was given.
Xabi Alonso was the first sub brought on when he replaced Pennant who was clearly carrying a knock from within the game. It meant a re-shuffle with Gerrard now going right midfield. For me the Reds never quite looked the same in midfield with Gerrard now outside of the middle where he is strong and a leader.
As time ticked down towards the ninety play got really stretched and any mistake could have won it for either side. It never came though and extra time was needed. The players had a short break before the extra period was started. The Reds were attacking the Anny road end in the first period.
The game slowed down through extra time as players clearly got more and more tired and also fearful of a mistake. I was happy to take penalties now. Joe Cole was replaced by Robben eight minutes in to the half.
Ten minutes in to the first period the Reds had the ball in the net and thought they'd done it. Alonso hit a superb effort from thirty five yards which Cech could only parry in front of him. Kuyt raced in after the shot and buried it only for an offside flag to go up straight away. It took a while for Kuyt and some of the crowd to realise it was ruled out. Having watched it afterwards it was really marginal which sometimes you get sometimes you don't. If it had stood we'd have probably sat back anyway and invited pressure on to ourselves so probably just as well.
The second half of extra time saw Craig Bellamy introduced for Peter Crouch. Shaun Wright Phillips replaced Kalou shortly in to the half for Chelsea. Five minutes in to the half and Zenden was booked for a blatant foul and shirt tug on Robben but it averted the danger.
With a couple of minutes left and penalties clearly ready to happen both sides made changes. Geremi replaced Makelele for them whilst Robbie Fowler replaced Mascherano who could hardly walk. In fairness the Reds nearly scored before the end as Fowler turned and played in Kuyt but his shot on goal went straight to Cech.
Penalties it was though and they were awarded to the Anny Road end. Apparently Chelsea won the toss at the start of the game for this.
Both managers went round and picked their spot kick kings and then the ref told all the bench men to go off to the side of the pitch. Looking across the ground and Benitez and Mourinho etc sitting down like schoolboys on the touchline was hilarious I have to say.
Bolo Zenden walked for the first kick and sent Cech the wrong way 1-0 Liverpool\r\nArjen Robben was first up for Chelsea and Reina saved his shot which went to the keepers left. 1-0 Liverpool\r\nXabi Alonso was next up and he drilled home in to the bottom left corner 2-0 Liverpool\r\nFrank Lampard walked up next and scored pretty much straight down the middle. 2-1 Liverpool\r\nSteven Gerrard placed the ball down next and sent Cech the wrong way 3-1 Liverpool\r\nGeremi who was brought on for the spot kicks was next and he saw his saved by Reina diving right. 3-1 Liverpool.\r\nDirk Kuyt was next knowing his kick would win it and he slotted home calm as you like 4-1 Liverpool.
The crowd went barmy everywhere. The players all raced to Kuyt and Reina apart from Carragher who turned round and raced straight down towards the Kop. All the players soon joined in the celebrations and the final in Athens became reality. Chelsea once again left Anfield as losers.
Now to await our opponents in Ancient Greece where hopefully we will bring it back home.