Liverpool defeated Chelsea, 4-1, Tuesday night on penalty kicks to reach the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons.
Two years ago, the Reds beat Chelsea, 1-0, at home
for a 1-0 aggregate victory en route to their fifth title in Europe's most important competition, This time, both teams won, 1-0, at home, setting the stage for the decisive shootout before a vocal
Anfield crowd in rare form.
Danish defender Daniel Agger scored in the 22nd minute, slotting a short ball from captain Steven Gerrard inside the near post while Chelsea defenders were waiting for Gerrard to launch a long ball into the box. The goal erased Chelsea's 1-0 advantage from last week's first
leg, but neither team could then break the stalemate.
Boudewijn Zenden, Xabi Alonso, Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt converted penalties for Liverpool, while goalkeeper Pepe Reina saved efforts by Chelsea's Arjen Robben and Geremi for Liverpool's 10th victory in 11 shootouts.
The loss was only Chelsea's second in 29 games in 2007 -- and both
have been to Liverpool. Still, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho insisted his Blues were the better team.
"There is little to say. This is a moment
where everyone has to be strong," he said. "The players have a lot of reasons to be proud of themselves. We were the best team today, even against a team playing only in the Champions League.
Football is like this, we have to be strong to face it."
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said the victory was an important one for the club, which
is now owned by American sports tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
"Maybe it was better than when we
beat Chelsea in 2005," the Spaniard said, "and I am really, really proud of my players. Chelsea are a very good side with some good players and at times it was difficult to control them. They had a
lot of free kicks but we defended really well and worked so hard all through the game."
1 in Liverpool
Liverpool (England) 1 Chelsea (England) 0. Goal: Agger 22.
Liverpool -- Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Pennant (Xabi Alonso, 78), Gerrard, Mascherano (Fowler, 118), Zenden, Kuyt, Crouch (Bellamy, 106).
Chelsea -- Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Essien, Terry, A.Cole, Mikel, Makelele (Geremi, 118), Lampard, J.Cole (Robben, 98), Drogba, Kalou (Wright-Phillips, 107).
Referee: Manuel Gonzalez (Spain).
(Aggregate: 1-1; Liverpool wins, 4-1, on penalties.)