Chelsea will face favorites Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals after sharing eight goals with Liverpool on one of the most dramatic night’s in the history of the tournament for a 7-5 aggregate win.
Last season’s beaten finalists Chelsea could finally relax when Frank Lampard’s second goal of the game a minute from time saw them grab a stunning succes over their Premier League rivals after a 4-4 Stamford Bridge draw.
Dutch coach Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea had looked to have done the hard work with a 3-1 first leg victory at Anfield last week, but they suffered the shattering blow of conceding twice in the opening half hour of the return.
That was just the start on a rollercoater ride of emotions that came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
The Reds, who had to do without injured captain Steven Gerrard, wanted to win in the memory of the 96 fans who died as a result of that FA Cup crush — and it looked posible after their stunning start.
Fernando Torres missed the target with a good early chance before Frank Lampard inadvertantly opened the way for Liverpool to take the lead after 19 minutes when he fouled Dirk Kuyt.
Fabio Aurelio lined up the free-kick 35 yards out and to the right of goal. To the amazement of everyone inside Stamford Bridge his accurate left-footed effort found the bottom right corner, when it seemed certain he would cross.
Aurelio’s intention completely deceived jittery goalkeeper Petr Cech, who took an age to react and slipped when he did.
The Brazilian was then involved as Liverpool stunned the home side and their fans with a second goal in the 28th minute.
Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea’s two-goal hero from the first leg, had his arms wrapped around Alonso as Aurelio’s free-kick sailed into the box and Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo pointed to the spot.
Alonso smashed the spot-kick into the left side of the net, leaving Liverpool just one goal away from a place in the semifinals.
That was the closest they got as Chelsea survived until manager Guus Hiddink was able to knock them back into shape during halftime.
Didier Drogba forced goalkeeper Jose Reina into a mistake after 52 minutes and a stunning freekick from Alex hauled Chelsea level five minutes level.
Lampard looked to have made Chelsea’s passage to the last four safe with his side’s third on 76 before Leiva Lucas and Kuyt hit back in the space of two minutes to put Liverpool 4-3 up on the night — and needing one more goal to go through.
Instead England midfielder Lampard had the final word with the goal that sends Chelsea to the Nou Camp for their semifinal first leg on April 28.
Blues boss Guus Hiddink admitted he was worried his team were going out after going in at half-time 2-0 down. “If you are 1-0 and 2-0 down you are worried,” he told ITV1.
“You can kill the game in the first half-hour by not conceding, but not by sitting back, with your backs in the goal – then you ask for problems, and we were worried.
“It was a matter of having too much respect so we got a little bit angry and the team reacted. That’s what I liked in the second half.”
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insisted everyone associated with the Reds could hold their heads high after tonight’s display.
“We are disappointed because we scored four goals away from home and this game was unbelievable, and I’m really proud of the players and fans because they were pushing the team all the time,” he told ITV1