April 2008 Archives

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THE sight of a diving Didier Drogba had infuriated Rafael Benitez last week. At Stamford Bridge last night, it left e1veryone at Liverpool deflated.

Hopes of an eighth European Cup final for the Anfield outfit and a showdown with bitter rivals Manchester United in Moscow were extinguished by the Ivorian.

Drogba stayed on his feet long enough to score in both normal time and extra time as Liverpool failed to register a hat-trick of Champions League semi-final victories against the Londoners.

"Fortune favours the brave" declared one of the many Liverpool flags to adorn the away end. The fates, however, decreed Chelsea would be on the way to Russia on May 21.

IT'S a clear cut situation for me tonight - Liverpool need to strike quickly and unsettle Chelsea.

There is no doubt the effect an early goal for the Reds will have on tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg.

For most of the night at Anfield you got the impression that the Londoners would have settled for a 1-0 defeat - until they were handed a late gift.

It forces the Reds into an attacking mode tonight - but if they could score twice, and they have the players capable of doing so - then the tie is turned upside down.

That, I hope, will be Rafa Benitez's philosophy.

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TWO things are certain if Liverpool score tonight; only one team can go through to the Champions' League Final on away goals; and you'll never hear of Bruno Cheyrou again.

Unless you've been holding your head in your hands ever since John Arne Riise decided to scratch his nose on the Anfield turf at the exact moment a cross curled its way into the six-yard box, you can't fail to be aware that it was the effete Frenchman who was the last Liverpool player to score at Stamford Bridge, just over four years and eight games ago.

Until last week resting in deserved obscurity in Rennes, Cheyrou has found himself catapulted back to fame by Riise's last-minute aberration, an unfortunate side-effect surely unforeseen by our Norwegian left-back.

Dubbed the 'new Zidane' by Gerard Houllier on his arrival from Lille in 2002, he played in fact like an old sedan, often carried by at least two other team-mates.

MIND games are part and parcel of football, so I wasn't surprised to see Rafa Benitez highlighting the need for a strong referee ahead of tomorrow night's meeting with Chelsea.

The Liverpool manager focused on Didier Drogba's play acting, and he was right to do so because that is one of the biggest threats to his team making it through to the European Cup Final for the third time in four years.

Like everyone else, I'm a big fan of Drogba as a player because he is big, strong and powerful, and he clearly knows where the goal is.

But there is this other side to his game where he goes down far too easily. which leaves a really nasty taste in the mouth.

If he does it tomorrow and gets away with it then it could make a big difference. Chelsea are always a threat from set pieces and free kicks awarded against Liverpool on the edge of their own box could be crucial.

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YOU always feel that Steven Gerrard has seen it all and done it all in his Liverpool career.

But every year - usually around Champions League semi-final time - there are always new challenges the Liverpool captain has to rise to in order to lift his side to great heights.

Tomorrow night is the perfect example. Liverpool have to score at Stamford Bridge for the first time since Rafael Benitez took charge or the dream of European Cup number six is over.

And I think their best chance of doing that is making sure Gerrard gets the freedom he craves.

Freedom he just didn't get in the first leg at Anfield, when he as quiet and unable to influence things in the way he has so often during major games in the past.

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