Chelsea ended Fenerbahce's European dream with a 2-0 home win, thus sealing a place in the semi-finals of this year's UEFA Champions League. Awaiting them will be Rafa Benitez's Liverpool, 4-2 winners over Arsenal in an epic encounter at Anfield. The two teams, who also met in the last four of the competition in both 2005 and 2007, are set to play the first leg on 22 April in Liverpool.
Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal
Goals: Sami Hyypia (29'), Fernando Torres (69'), Steven Gerrard (85'), Ryan Babel (90+2) - Liverpool; Abou Diaby (12'), Emmanuel Adebayor (84') - Arsenal
Three goals in the final seven minutes capped a spectacular match served up by the two English sides at Anfield. Arsenal stormed out the blocks, putting Liverpool under severe pressure and moving the ball about with slick, one-touch passing. Their adventure was quickly rewarded with the night's first goal, Abou Diaby breaking into the box before beating Pepe Reina at his near post. Visibly shaken, the Reds dragged themselves level via Sami Hyypia's pinpoint header from a Steven Gerrard corner.
The equaliser was a real shot in the arm to the home team, though clear chances remained elusive. That was until Fernando Torres popped up in the Arsenal area on the 69-minute mark, turning smartly before rifling an unstoppable shot into the far corner of Manuel Almunia's net. And having wasted an excellent opportunity to give the visitors the lead on away goals, Emmanuel Adebayor made amends on 84 minutes when coolly slotting home after Theo Walcott's storming run. Yet Arsenal's hopes were dashed just moments later, Kolo Toure bringing down substitute Ryan Babel to allow Gerrard to give his side the lead from the spot. And with just seconds on the clock Babel broke through the exposed Gunners' backline to hit his side's fourth and cap another memorable European night for Liverpool.
Though difficult to pick just one player from a spectacle of this calibre, El Niño Torres deserves a special mention. Kept unusually quiet by the Arsenal back four, the former Atletico Madrid man needed only a instant to fashion a truly stunning second-half strike and edge Liverpool into a 3-2 aggregate lead.
The turning point
All hell broke loose after the 84-minute mark at Anfield. Mere moments after Walcott had cut the Liverpool defence to ribbons and set up Adebayor to score, Toure's challenge on Babel enabled Gerrard to fire the Reds back into the lead. The fans packing the famous stadium experienced the full gambit of footballing emotions in the space of just a couple of minutes.
Chelsea 2-0 Fenerbahce
Goals: Michael Ballack (4') and Frank Lampard (87') - Chelsea
Though undoubtedly possessing greater European experience, it took Chelsea until the 87 th minute of this second-leg tie to finally finish off brave Fenerbahce's resistance. Just as in the first match in Istanbul, the Blues dominated the opening period and took an early lead via Michael Ballack's glancing header. The home team were shaken with the exit through injury of keeper Carlo Cudicini, only for replacement Hilario to rise to the challenge in fine style. Chelsea were grateful to the Portuguese custodian for some smart stops late on, before Frank Lampard's goal three minutes from the end crushed Fener's hopes.
The win means that French midfielder Claude Makelele could
become the first player to appear in eight UEFA Champions League
semi-finals, having reached this stage once with FC Nantes, three
times with Real Madrid and now four times with Chelsea.
There can be little doubt that the safe hands of substitute keeper Hilario, the London side's third choice after Petr Cech and Cudicini, proved decisive. But nor must we forget the impact of midfield trio Michael Essien, Ballack and Lampard. The latter two scored the goals at Stamford Bridge while the Ghanaian powerhouse created Lampard's effort and kept the Turkish defence under constant pressure.
The turning point
With less than ten minutes remaining, Zico's charges had two glorious chances to level the game and clinch a historic first semi-final appearance. Yet 32-year-old Hilario kept out Gokhan Gonul's volley before pulling off a spectacular stop to deny Kazim Kazim from point-blank range and break Fener hearts.