Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Joe Cole gives Blues advantage

ALL TO PLAY FOR A well-taken 29th minute goal means Chelsea take a slender lead to Anfield in their attempt to make the Champions League final


Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina leaps over Chelsea's Didier Drogba, left, to clear the ball during their Champions League semi-final first leg soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London on Wednesday.


Joe Cole scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea emerged from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with a 1-0 advantage over Liverpool to take to Anfield.

After generating enough chances to put the tie beyond doubt, particularly in a first-half they comfortably dominated, Jose Mourinho's side were put under sufficient pressure after the break for Liverpool to head home believing they can turn things around in front of their own fans.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho praised his players especially for their first-half display, though, he regretted them not taking a greater advantage into the half-time break.

Mourinho's counterpart Rafa Benitez said he was happier with the second half performance as he saw his side slide to their first defeat in five Champions League matches between the two sides.

"The game was made up of two different parts," said the ever cagey Spaniard. "The first-half we were not controlling it at all but the second a little bit better. In the second leg we have to be mindful that Chelsea like to counterattack."

"We just need to score one goal in the second leg and if we can score two like we did in the Premiership against them then we can win," Benitez said.

Cole's 29th-minute winner, a close-range effort created by Didier Drogba's power-packed run and astute pass, was a fine goal.

Drogba's well-established capacity for ruffling the composure of the Liverpool defense was underlined as early as the eighth minute, the Ivory Coast striker's knockdown from Ashley Cole's cross teeing up Frank Lampard on the penalty spot.

The midfielder managed to get his foot over the bouncing ball but his shot was too straight and Jose Reina was able to make a good block.

Then, a minute later, Andriy Shevchenko curled a shot narrowly over the angle of post and bar and Liverpool were reprieved again when Drogba failed to pick out an unmarked Joe Cole in the middle after John Arne Riise's slack back pass had sent him sprinting clear through the inside right channel.

Twenty minutes elapsed before Liverpool managed to muster a shot on goal, Bolo Zenden's wayward effort adding to the frustration of the increasingly agitated Rafael Benitez.

Dirk Kuyt finally gave Petr Cech something to do shortly afterwards, although a kindly deflection off Ricardo Carvalho ensured his header flew straight to the midriff of the Czech goalkeeper.

Chelsea were soon threatening again and, after Drogba had failed to connect with Joe Cole's inviting cross, Lampard sent a 25m free-kick fizzing just outside the base of Reina's right-hand post.

The pressure finally told in the 29th minute as Chelsea took the lead with a move launched by Carvalho on the edge of his own area.

The Portuguese carried the ball out to the edge of the center circle before spreading it wide to Drogba, who muscled past Daniel Agger and into the area before pulling the ball back behind Jamie Carragher.

Cutting in from the opposite flank at pace, Joe Cole was able to get in front of Alvaro Arbeloa and finish the move with a straightforward of finishes from 8m out.

"We'll see the importance next week," said Cole of his effort. "We're not going to get over-excited with a 1-0 win as its only half-time and we have seen teams with bigger leading margins than us turned over in second legs."

Liverpool's tempo rose predictably in response but it was not until after the break that the visiting side began to pose a genuine threat to the Chelsea goal.

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