Advantage Chelsea

A howler from John Arne Riise gives Chelsea the edge heading to Stamford Bridge.

    John Arne Riise hopes the ground will
    swallow him up at Anfield [AFP]
    Liverpool defender John Arne Riise had a moment of horror as he scored an injury-time own-goal to give Chelsea a 1-1 draw at Liverpool in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League semifinals.

    Riise's diving header inadvertently went into his own net off Salomon Kalou's left-wing cross in the fifth minute of added time.

    The goal equalised Dirk Kuyt's first-half finish and makes Chelsea the favourite to advance to the final on May 21 in Moscow.

    "At the end, you must be really disappointed,'' Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.

    "One minute in the first half, four minutes in the second half.

    "Everyone was really disappointed. In these situations the only think you can do is try to be positive and try to think about the next game and be ready.''

    It is the third time in four seasons that the teams have met in the Champions League semifinals, but the first that Chelsea has avoided a 1-0 loss at Anfield.

    "I think we deserved definitely to get the draw at the end,'' Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said.

    "They had chances, we had chances. It was a battle and we carried on to the end.''

    The previous meetings in 2005 and 2007 came as the second match of a two-leg series and sent Liverpool through.

    Chelsea have the edge

    Liverpool now has to play at Stamford Bridge next week knowing it has to at least score if it is to make it through.

    Liverpool had looked more likely to advance for most of Tuesday's match, although the first half was dominated by the kind of attrition-like, physical play that has been prominent in the majority of the previous 18 meetings between the teams over the past four years.

    Fans of both sides were increasingly frustrated by passes constantly going to the opponents or even out of play.

    Kuyt could have opened the scoring in the 13th misplayed a pass over the defence with his chest, when a better touch would have left him with a simple shot on goal, and Fernando Torres prodded a shot wide four minutes later.

    At the other end, Joe Cole just failed to connect with a volley from Frank Lampard's lofted pass and Didier Drogba had a call for a penalty turned down when Jamie Carragher challenged him in the area.

    But it was Liverpool that forced the clearest chance in the 31st.

    Steven Gerrard passed through the defence on the edge of the area and Torres, who has scored 30 goals in his debut season for Liverpool, took one touch and hit a low shot on goal, which was saved by goalkeeper Petr Cech.

    The dominance of power over finesse continued when Martin Skrtel sent a defensive clearance out of the stadium as the teams persisted with hopeful long passes.

    Liverpool's Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt, centre, puts the home side ahead [AFP]

    Kuyt almost set up a chance when he got around left back Ashley Cole and crossed toward Torres, but Ricardo Carvalho got to the ball first.

    The Netherlands international had better luck moments later.

    Kuyt collected a quick free kick down the right from Xabi Alonso and, although his low cross was headed away, he won back possession on the edge of the area.

    Alonso back-heeled the ball to Mascherano, whose mis-hit spun over Claude Makelele.

    The midfielder missed an attempted header and it dropped to Kuyt, who scored past Cech from inside the box.

    Kuyt had not scored for Liverpool in the Premier League since November but has now scored in three straight rounds of the Champions League, against Inter Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea.

    Buoyed by the breakthrough, Liverpool dominated the opening exchanges of the second half, with Torres and Ryan Babel tormenting the visiting defence, the latter just shooting wide with a fierce half-volley in the 59th.

    Liverpool fullback Fabio Aurelio was carried off in the 61st with what appeared to be a groin injury and was replaced by Riise, while Chelsea coach Avram Grant risked the ire of his team's fans two minutes later when he withdrew the popular Joe Cole for Salomon Kalou.

    Grant pulls the right string

    Grant's decision to replace the midfielder against Tottenham in the Premier League this season was blamed for the team's failure to hold onto a winning position, but the forward almost pulled his team level this time in the 67th with a shot that was deflected wide.

    With Liverpool pressing for what could be a crucial second goal and Chelsea trying for an equalizer, more space was being left late on and Torres almost set up Gerrard in the 83rd, but Cech smothered the ball.

    Chelsea brought on Nicolas Anelka for Michael Ballack, giving it three strikers but Liverpool continued to look the most likely to score and Gerrard hit a shot that was heading into the top corner until Cech got his hand to it and pushed it just over the bar.

    "We had the better chances and we know we must play another 90 minutes,'' Benitez said.

    "The team today was working really hard, especially creating chances, and we must do the same away.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.