Football

Balls Remembers: The Often Overlooked Chelsea-Liverpool Classic That Trumped The Rest

Balls Remembers: The Often Overlooked Chelsea-Liverpool Classic That Trumped The Rest

When you think of the rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea over the years, there have been a number of iconic games: the 2005 Champions League semi-final, the 2007 rematch, the FA Cup final in 2012, the infamous 'Slippy G' game of 2014 that scuppered Liverpool's title challenge, even the League Cup final in 2005 was Mourinho's first trophy in English football.

All of those games had a strong narrative, and featured plenty of memorable moments. There was also no shortage of quality on show.

However, there is one game that may stand out above all others. What's more, it is often forgotten in discussing the great meetings between these two sides.

While Liverpool never managed to establish themselves as a force in the domestic game, they were perhaps the most consistent team in European competition during the latter half of the noughties. Chelsea weren't far behind them, and their paths always crossed in the Champions League.

From the years of 2005-2009, they would meet no fewer than ten times in the Europe's premier club competition.

The semi-final clash in 2005 is probably the most famous of those meetings, largely due to Luis Garcia's 'ghost goal' that decided the tie. It also put Liverpool on course to win the competition for the first time in 21 years.

They would meet in the group stage the following season, before Liverpool once again trumped Chelsea in the semi-final the year after.

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By the time the two sides met in the semi-final in 2008, their rivalry was well established. One key difference was the absence of Jose Mourinho, we left Stamford Bridge earlier in that season.

The first game was a typically cagey European affair. Dirk Kuyt gave Liverpool a first half lead, but just when it looked like they would take a slender advantage to London, disaster struck. John Arne Riise scored a comical own goal in 95th minute, giving Chelsea the momentum for the second leg.

What would follow would be 120 of the most extraordinary minutes of football we have ever witnessed.

This one had everything: stunning goals, horrific mistakes, late drama, disallowed goals, moments of pure quality, and a driving narrative surrounding the game.

Frank Lampard, who would play a pivotal role on the night, lost his mother Pat only six days earlier after a battle with pneumonia. It added yet another element to a game that was already assured to be a charged affair.

Unlike previous European meetings between the sides, this was an end to end affair. Simply put, the action was breathtaking.

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In many ways it what you have considered a traditional full blooded clash between two English rivals, but such games were exceedingly rare on the continental weather. This one was a throwback of sorts, end-to-end action in poor weather, even the pitch was a bit shite.

After 120 minutes of endless twists and turns, Chelsea would emerge as winners on a 4-3 aggregate scoreline. There was plenty of drama along the way.

Both teams flew out of the traps, and had a number of opportunities to score. A mix of bad finishing and Pepe Reina heroics kept Liverpool on level terms, but they missed opportunities of their own as well.

It was Didier Drogba that would break the deadlock in the 33rd minute, showing wonderful instincts to get on the end of a rebound and blast one low into the bottom corner.

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That was the only goal of the opening half, with Chelsea leading 2-1 on aggregate at that stage.

Liverpool came out strong to open the second period and were rewarded when Fernando Torres, as he made a habit of doing, found the back of the net against Chelsea.

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And so we went to extra time, with the prospect of another away goal for Liverpool now a major problem for the home side.

However, it appeared that they had struck first blood.

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Michael Essien blasted one in on from the edge of the penalty area. Advantage Chelsea. But as was typical of this game, that was not the end of the story.

The referee would disallow the goal, with three Chelsea players in an offside position obstructing the view of Pepe Reina.

If anything, this only served to drive Chelsea on.

They would take the lead for real a few moments later when Michael Ballack was taken down in the penalty area. Fittingly it was Frank Lampard, who had endured such tragedy only days before, who would tuck away the spot kick.

The outpouring of emotion from the player was remarkable, and he would pick out his father in the crowd as he celebrated.

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In many ways this summed up the player Lampard was, overcoming obstacles to reach the top of the game. It's what made him such a special footballer.  He carried that attitude with him for the rest of his career.

Liverpool were denied a penalty of their own just after, with Ryan Babel taken down in the box. When Drogba scored his second of the game, the tie was seemingly dead.

As was typical of Liverpool during this period, they didn't lie down.

Ryan Babel gave them hope of yet another comeback with a magnificent long-range strike.

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It wasn't to be however, with Chelsea ultimately securing passage to the Champions League final for the first time.

A simply incredible game, and one that is often overlooked when we look back at the history between these two sides.

Why is this game not remembered as fondly as the rest? After all, it was perhaps the most exciting and high quality of the bunch. It is difficult to say, but there are a few possible reasons.

Liverpool supporters are unlikely to look back on this one with much joy, considering they came out on the losing side. Equally for Chelsea fans, this titanic battle was probably lost after the dramatic circumstances of their defeat in the final to Manchester United.

The lack of the Mourinho-Benitez rivalry is also no doubt part of the narrative, with Avram Grant lacking the same charisma as his predecessor.

Combine all of these elements, and you have a game that has largely been lost to history.

SEE ALSO: Callum Robinson Explains How International Football Has Reunited His Family

Gary Connaughton

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