The “Little Club” that Did

Pure, unabated elation.   Liverpool goes through to the Champions League Final beating Chelsea 4-1 on penalties after the teams were tied at 1-1 through extra-time (TTL predicted a 2-0 LP win WRONG).  Pepe Reina, el maestro of the shoot-out, had 2 key saves on Robben and Geremi, while Zenden, Alonso, Gerrard and Kuyt were all on-target for Liverpool.  After a 120 minutes of butt-clenching football the better side won.  For the 3rd straight year, Rafa’s Liverpool get the better of Jose’s Chelsea in a semifinal. 

There are tons of storylines to touch upon so here are some quick comments.  Rafa again started Zenden (much to TTL’s chagrin).  But Zenden put in a gritty performance capped by calmly stepping up and knocking in the 1st penalty. 

Mascherano was fantastic in the middle for Liverpool really stepping up his play after a subpar performance in the 1st leg.  Pennant has quietly come on all year, and he provided some good thrusts down the right for LP until he went off injured.  Carragher and Agger were huge in defensive, basically reducing Chelsea’s offense to lobbing long balls up to Drogba. 

Ironic that Chelsea spent gazillions last summer on Ballack and Shevkenko to put them over the top in European competitions and both were injured.  But don’t think either player was missed as much as Carvalho who has been a defensive force all year. 

Add Michael Essien of Chelsea to the shortlist as best current player in the world.  The Ghananian Train was everywhere last night and really kept Chelsea in it. 

Would be remiss to not point out that Jose Mourinho thought Chelsea the better team.  After calling LP a “little club” that does well in “some cup competitions” it has to gnaw on the self-proclaimed “Special One” that he can’t beat Rafa in knockout games. 

Anfield is a special place.  LP and their new American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, will be building a new stadium in a few years.  But on occasions like last night, one can see how special Anfield and the rabid supporters really are.  Here’s Anfield in all its glory last night, YNWA pre-match. 

Now to tonight’s semi-final to find out who will meet Liverpool on May 23rd in Athens. 

AC Milan (2) v Manchester United (3)  (20:45 CET and 2:45 on ESPN2).

Man U continue their quest for the Treble (Premiership, FA Cup and CL titles) in Milan.   Man U have all their attacking stars healthy and will get a huge defensive upgrade if Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic can play as both have pre-match fitness tests.  Milan will not have the services of their captain Pablo Maldini but get a boost from the return of the ultimate poaching striker, Filippo Inzaghi. 

The San Siro will be rockin’ tonight, urging Milan forward to score.  Problem with committing to the attack against Man U is it leaves a team vulnerable to the counterattack.  And with Giggs, Rooney, Ronaldo, and Scholes all on good-form United is scoring goals for a laugh.  The 4 goals in 30 minute blitz they sprung on Everton on Saturday was devastating.  Don’t think Milan will be able to shutout Man U, so might have to outscore them.  Remember that a 2-1 Milan win (4-4 on aggregate) puts them in the Final due to the away goals rule. 

TTL predicts this game will be another thriller like the 1st leg ending in a frantic 2-2 tie.  Meaning United will advance 5-4 on aggregate, setting up a Dream Final.  Then again, if Milan were to win, then a repeat of the classic 2005 Final would be on offer.  Not too shabby either.  Enjoy the game. 

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