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Liverpool Has No Answer for Drogba

  • Telegraph, Thursday, April 26, 2007 3:45 PM
On a night after Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and AC Milan's Kaka cemented their claim to being the two best players in world soccer with a pair of spellbinding performances at Old Trafford, Chelsea's Didier Drogba showed why he, at the very least, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. The Ivory Coast striker was every bit the difference at Stamford Bridge last night as Chelsea overcame fellow English giant Liverpool, 1-0, in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

As the Telegraph's Alan Smith says, Rafa Benitez's men had no answer for Drogba, who went at the Liverpool defense like a "rampaging bull on the narrow streets of Pamplona." Playing lone striker to a converted 4-5-1, the Ivorian did everything Jose Mourinho would have required: he held up the ball superbly, launching several counterattacks, including the goal, which he created for Joe Cole. He won balls in the air, providing Chelsea with the kind of depth it needed, while setting up several chances in the attacking third from crosses and set pieces.

The goal came from a counterattack started by Ricardo Carvalho, who had a nearly flawless evening at center back, after a Liverpool corner. His pass into space found Drogba, who muscled toward the byline past Daniel Agger, cutting the ball in behind them both before feeding the onrushing Cole, who stretched to hit the ball first-time past the unbalanced Pepe Reina. It was a fantastic goal punctuated by a move that Smith says encapsulates everything about Drogba: strength, speed and guile. He is in fact, the difference between two sides that don't have much between them. For all the qualities of Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, these men have nothing on Chelsea's "magnificent beast of a striker."

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