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Chelsea holds on to oust Liverpool

CHELSEA held on to oust Liverpool and advance to the semifinals of the Champions League after a memorable - but uncomfortable - 4-4 draw for a 7-5 win on aggregate yesterday.

It should never have been so tight or nervy for Chelsea - last season's beaten finalists - having left Anfield with a 3-1 lead in the quarterfinals.

But last week's win bred overconfidence, rather than providing a launchpad to sweep aside the second-leg response from a Liverpool side focused on winning the English Premier League.

The Blues conceded from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso in the first 29 minutes to give Liverpool hope of a comeback. Only when interim manager Guus Hiddink berated his players at halftime did they realize that their European campaign was in danger.

"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," Hiddink said. "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."

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard ended up with two goals and Alex and Didier Drogba added the others. Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt also scored late, but the Anfield deficit proved too much to overcome.

"From coasting at 3-2 with 14 minutes to go and all of a sudden being 4-3 down it was a nervy end," Lampard said. "These nights are what football is all about. It was a bit uncomfortable for the team during the game, but when you look back on tonight it was a great advert for English football."

In the semifinals, Chelsea will face Barcelona, which advanced 5-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich.

Both Liverpool and Chelsea were missing their captains. Chelsea defender John Terry was suspended and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard was rested as he recovers from a groin injury.

Despite Liverpool's success often relying on the attacking threat provided by Gerrard linking with Fernando Torres, the England star was in the stands and the Spain striker was largely ineffective. Still,the Reds scored more than twice at Stamford Bridge for the first time in 20 years. Yet it wasn't enough.

"When you lose you have to be disappointed but when you lose in this way you have to be proud and have your head up," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "Thinking about the Premier League, maybe it's positive because if we can score four goals here at Stamford Bridge, we can do the same in any stadium. We can win a lot of games with this mentality."

Aurelio started things off for Liverpool - second in the Premier League - exploiting a gaping hole in the Chelsea defense to score in the 19th from a free kick. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had drifted across to the right expecting Aurelio to cross high into the penalty area. Instead, the Brazil defender sent the ball low past the one-man wall and inside the exposed near post.

Aurelio's next free kick helped to provide the second. Branislav Ivanovic, whose two goals in the first leg had put Chelsea in control, hauled down Alonso with both hands as the ball was floated into the box. Alonso slotted past Cech from the penalty spot.

Hiddink said he wanted to "make more danger" by immediately replacing winger Salomon Kalou for another striker - former Liverpool player Nicolas Anelka.

Cech nearly gifted Liverpool a third goal on either side of halftime - even after Hiddink had berated his players in the dressing room.

"He is very intelligent and self critical," Hiddink said. "Tonight there were some times when he was not fully confident."

But it was Cech's counterpart, Pepe Reina, who fumbled the ball into his own net in the 51st to give Chelsea its first goal of the match.

Anelka crossed low from the right and Drogba nudged it inside the near post under pressure from Martin Skrtel and, despite initially blocking it, Reina turned it over the line.

Chelsea soon made it 2-2 when Alex scored with a swerving free kick from a central position. In the 76th, Lampard controlled Alonso's weak clearance to release Drogba and the ball was returned to the England midfielder in an unmarked central position to make it 3-2.

But Liverpool came back with two goals in three minutes. Leiva made it 3-3 in the 81st with a long-range strike that was deflected into the opposite corner by Michael Essien, and Kuyt met Albert Riera's cross with a powerful header.

Lampard finished off the Reds in the 89th, however, sending Chelsea through to meet Barcelona.

But Lampard knows a repeat of Wednesday's display at the Spanish leader on April 28 will not be acceptable.

"It's going to be a very difficult game against them because of the way they are playing," Lampard said. "In Barcelona we have to be strong because Barcelona are a very strong team."

And Chelsea will be without a recognized left back after Ashley Cole picked up a booking that will rule him out of the first leg at Nou Camp.


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