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Chelsea beats Liverpool in 1st leg of quarters

CHELSEA took a big step toward the Champions League semifinals yesterday, rallying to beat Liverpool 3-1 in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

Branislav Ivanovic scored his first goals for Chelsea and Didier Drogba added a third to put the 2008 finalists in control ahead of Tuesday's second leg at Stamford Bridge, where the Reds have not scored more than twice in one game in 20 years.

Five-time European champion Liverpool took the lead in the sixth minute when Fernando Torres scored, but Ivanovic headed in corners on either side of halftime and Drogba scored the third in the 67th.

"We aimed to score and when you can score three, that's a luxury," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said. "It's halftime. If we think we can play a relaxed game, that's not what might happen because Liverpool have shown in the past they can do unthinkable things, and we have to avoid that."

Liverpool attacked Chelsea from outset, but after taking the early lead, Chelsea's threat was growing. Ivanovic soon raced in undetected between Martin Skrtel and Albert Riera and soared to meet Florent Malouda's corner for the equalizer in the 39th minute.

Chelsea nearly took the lead in the 51st but Jamie Carragher cleared a shot from Drogba off the line after the Ivory Coast striker had taken hold of Fabio Aurelio's back pass.

Ivanovic, who filled in for Jose Bosingwa at right back, replicated his first goal by beating Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina after rising to meet a corner from Frank Lampard in the 62nd.

"We scored the first goal and were doing well," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "After that we lost control and they had chances. ... It is difficult to stop them because they have five or six players who are good in the air. It was a free header and that was a mistake.

"We had three players around and didn't stop him (Ivanovic). When you have people in that zone you must control that space but clearly we made a mistake."

Drogba tapped in the final goal in the 67th when Malouda released Michael Ballack, who squared the ball across the penalty area for the onrushing Drogba to tap into the net.

"I wasn't surprised because Chelsea are a strong team," Benitez said. "They have won a lot of games away in the Premier League and have a lot of confidence and are playing well."

In the second leg, Chelsea will be without captain John Terry. The central defender got a yellow card for running into Reina and will have to sit out the team's next match.

Liverpool had its chances, but Ivanovic diverted Dirk Kuyt's third-minute shot as it was heading into the top corner.

Torres then gave the hosts the lead after Kuyt picked up possession and backheeled to Alvaro Arbeloa, who crossed for the unmarked Spaniard to divert the ball into the bottom of Petr Cech's net.

Torres continued to cause Chelsea problems with his menacing runs, but the closest he came to a second goal was chipped over after he wrestled the ball off Lampard.

"We are very happy with this unexpected result," Hiddink said. "We started very sloppy, which gave us some jobs to do in defense."

The winner will play either Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the semifinals. The Spanish team beat Bayern 4-0 at the Nou Camp in yesterday's other match.


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