Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven were the night's victors in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. A scoreless draw with Juventus was enough for the English side to win 2-1 on aggregate, while PSV were taken to penalties before prevailing over Lyon.
Not many pundits had expected Liverpool to keep a clean sheet against the Old Lady in Turin, but they did, largely thanks to a sterling defensive performance. As a result, Rafael Benitez's side advance to face Chelsea in an all-English semi-final. Depending on the conclusions of the UEFA enquiry this Friday, AC Milan will probably be the only survivor from the three Italian sides in the last eight. If so, the Rossoneri will face PSV Eindhoven, whose purposeful play and fighting spirit carried them through, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of last year's champions Porto.
At the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin, Juventus began cautiously. Deprived of the injured David Trezeguet up front, Fabio Capello introduced Ruben Olivera as a late replacement for Manuele Blasi, but possibly cautioned by their disastrous start at Anfield, the Italians probed and teased but failed to ask enough questions in a tight first period.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic spurned the only real chance of the first half on 11 minutes, lifting the ball over the bar after great work by Gianluca Zambrotta down the left. Emerson did his usual sterling work to win possession for the home side, but the Liverpool rearguard stood firm, and the English side even managed a few dangerous sorties of their own.
The Merseysiders should have taken the lead early in the second half. Xabi Alonso fed Milan Baros, who nipped away from his marker only to slice his shot. Gianluigi Buffon was relieved to see the ball bobble wide (49'). Juventus were briefly stung into action, but before long Liverpool were again looking the more likely to score, particularly via the lively Baros.
The home team's anxiety grew, and that showed in a few frustrated fouls that resulted in referee Valentin Ivanov handing out four yellow cards in the space of 20 minutes. La Vecchia Signora were playing poorly but knew that one goal would be enough to take them through. Fabio Cannavaro so nearly supplied it. His header at the far post on 78 minutes was somehow bundled out for a corner off the woodwork. Cannavaro was called into action again at the very end to prevent substitute Djibril Cissé from sealing a famous win (92'). Nevertheless, the scoreless result was enough to take Liverpool through on aggregate (2-1; 0-0).
All action in Eindhoven
The Philips Stadion in Eindhoven was the stage as PSV put Lyon to a physical test in the night's other Champions League quarter-final. The Dutch side's flying wingers, Korean Ji-Sung Park and Peruvian Jefferson Farfan, provided much of the attacking menace in the early stages. But the Lyon fullbacks repelled their pacy adversaries, and it was the French champions who struck first. Alex's clearance fell nicely for Sylvain Wiltord, who advanced into the area and fired a shot that Heurelho Gomes got a hand to, but was unable to keep out (0-1, 10').
The inspirational Mark van Bommel set about rallying his troops and PSV went in search of an equaliser, but chances were few and far between in the first period.
The Dutch league leaders drew level early in the second half. This time it was the turn of Eric Abidal to fail to clear his lines, and Alex thundered the ball home (1-1, 49'). The scores were level on the night, and on aggregate.
Guus Hiddink brought on American Damarcus Beasley to add some cut and thrust to his side's measured approach play. Cris went close for Lyon, and Beasley might have scored for PSV, but with the rain pouring down and neither side able to break the deadlock, extra-time was needed.
Nilmar was a threat in the additional half-hour, but neither side found the winner, and so, for the first time in the history of the Champions League, a knockout game other than the final went to penalties. PSV showed the greater mental and physical toughness to prevail 4-2 in the shootout.
Liverpool travel to Chelsea on 27 April for the first leg of their all-English semi, while PSV head to Milan on 26 April for the other semi-final.