Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chelsea-3, Liverpool-2; Blues Heading to Moscow


That’s just all there is to say.

That was how a Champions League semifinal should be played. That was a terrific, terrific two hours of soccer.

Congratulations to Chelsea, obviously, for winning 3-2 and advancing to Moscow to play Manchester United on May 21, in what will be the first all-English final in Champions League history.

Full credit to Didier Drogba, who has been slated by me and nearly everyone else in the blogs, newspapers, and on TV for not giving his all on the field. He shut all the critics up with his performance today, beating Pepe Reina to the near post on both of his goals.

Full credit to Frank Lampard for stepping up and nailing that PK in extra time. All the pressure in the world was on a man who just lost his mother and for him to even be playing is a testament to his mental strength. It was a precious moment to see him kiss the black armband, worn in memory of his mom, during his celebration in the corner.

For Liverpool, you also have to credit them for never giving up. Ryan Babel’s 40-yard strike in the 117th minute should’ve been saved, I understand that, but Liverpool deserved some consolation after the way they came back from 1-0 down in regular time and for the way they played in extra time. I do have to say that Steven Gerrard was largely invisible today; he had a disappointing game, and I don’t understand why Fernando Torres was taken off. If anything, Kuyt should’ve been replaced by Peter Crouch, not Babel on for the best out-and-out striker in the league this season even though Babel did end up scoring.

I thought the referee and his assistants had solid games as well. Kalou looked to have been just offside on Chelsea’s first goal, but it was a matter of inches either way and when in doubt, you give the attacker the benefit of the call. Chelsea’s penalty was justly awarded, and Hyypia’s shout for one late on was justly not given. Essien’s potential second goal was correctly disallowed as four Chelsea players were offside and Didier Drogba was impeding Reina by standing right in front of him.

That was just a mind-blowing game. As I was telling a friend, I don’t support either team but I was even feeling nervous for the majority of the game. That’s the type of action you want to see from a match of this magnitude, and it’s great that both teams delivered.

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