Underrated Rivalries: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Football has given birth to the best of rivalries.
These fixtures are exuberant, fueled with passion and epitomise what makes the beautiful game so special. Whether it be a clash of the Titans in the El Clasico or Oxford vs Swindon on a cold Tuesday night, these eagerly anticipated matches bring a rush of adrenaline to both sets of fans, making for an incredible atmosphere.
Although many rivalries have infamous titles such as the Old Firm and North London derbies, there are some rivalries that don’t get the recognition they deserve. In this case, we have Chelsea vs Liverpool, two giants of the English game that have had encounters where the stakes couldn’t have been higher. With Champions League titles on the line, both sides never fail to entertain, providing viewers with the best of football that club competition has to offer:
Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool (30th April 2008)
After holding off Liverpool’s devastating attack at Anfield a week before, The Blues returned to Stamford Bridge with a crucial away goal (1-1 in the first leg). With a Champions League final place on the line, an intense match was certainly on the cards.
A cagey first 33 minutes illustrated the importance of the game. The anxious Stamford Bridge crowd exploded into life when Didier Drogba fired home to break the deadlock, with the London club going into halftime 2-1 up on aggregate.
The second half commenced and Liverpool knew they would have to score to take the game the distance. A tense 19 minutes followed…
Neither side was superior and time was ticking in Cobham. Liverpool desperately needed inspiration and Fernando Torres provided it in the 64th with a trademark finish to give the Reds a crucial away goal.
The two sides could not be separated in 90 minutes, so the game was going to extra time. 8 minutes in, Michael Ballack was fouled in the box and referee Roberto Rosetti pointed menacingly towards the spot…
Stepping up to take it was Frank Lampard. The man whose mother sadly passed away 6 days before overcame his troubles and slotted away. Chelsea had the advantage and the English midfielder was full of emotion.
Liverpool were devastated and Didier Drogba’s 105th-minute goal took the game even further away from The Reds. In hindsight, Ryan Babel’s long-distance strike in the 117th minute is seen as a consolation goal. Yet the final 3 minutes would have felt like an eternity for the Stamford Bridge faithful with another goal enough to take Liverpool through. But they held on and Chelsea had booked their place in the Champions League final. Revenge for 2005 and 2007.
Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (14th April 2009)
Just a year later, the two were drawn against each other again in the Champions League. After Chelsea claimed pole position at Anfield with a 3-1 victory, Liverpool knew they faced a mammoth challenge in London, especially without Steven Gerrard. Perhaps this 8 goal thriller is the best game to have ever been played between the two sides.
Just 19 minutes into the game, Liverpool took the lead when Fabio Aurelio embarrassed Petr Cech with a deceiving free-kick. The Reds continued to edge Chelsea on chances and tie completely opened up when the visitors were awarded a penalty for a foul on Xabi Alonso.
The majestic Spaniard stepped up and dispatched it to put Liverpool 2-0 up on the night and 2/3 the way to an unthinkable comeback. Going into halftime, Istanbul vibes were among the Kop and the Stamford Bridge faithful knew they were witnessing yet another UCL roller coaster.
Just 7 minutes after the restart, Chelsea responded when Drogba’s faint touch from Nicolas Anelka’s cross was enough to force Pepe Reina into a mistake. The floodgates opened when just 5 minutes later, the Ivorian was at it again winning a freekick just over 30 yards from goal. Brazilian defender Alex stepped up and cannoned a thunderous shot into the roof of the net to give the hosts a 5-3 lead on aggregate.
A back and forth spell followed for the next 20 minutes where both sides continued to threaten each other’s goal. However, when Lampard converted from close range, it looked like the tie was over for Liverpool.
Yet The Reds made it a nail-biting quarter of an hour for the home side. A deflected strike from Lucas Leiva offered a glimmer of hope before a thumping Dirk Kuyt header completely silenced Stamford Bridge. With momentum on their side, Liverpool needed just one goal to go through to the semi-final on away goals.
Chelsea though made sure no miraculous comeback was to happen by holding off the onslaught of the visitors before Lampard again curled a beautiful shot off both posts to bring the game to 4-4 on the night and send The Blues through 7-5 on aggregate.
An incredible advert for the beautiful game, where football was at its finest in the biggest of competitions.