Chelsea 'heroes' break down Reds' resistance in epic siege

Liverpool 2 - Chelsea 3
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The Independent Football

He has dared to lay down the law to Barcelona in their own stadium and then walked out on them in controversy after defeat. He has proclaimed his Chelsea side the best in Europe and challenged the rest of the Premiership to catch them. This counts as a regular week in the life of Jose Mourinho and perhaps we should not be surprised that this remarkable coach found himself at the centre of controversy again.

A game that smouldered for 79 minutes exploded into life here yesterday when Steven Gerrard headed into his own net to level matters after Liverpool's goal after just 45 seconds. By the end of extra time, Chelsea had their first trophy of the Roman Abramovich era. But it came in remarkable circumstances, with Mourinho ordered down the tunnel on advice of the police who claimed he was taunting Liverpool supporters.

In the latest Mourinho chapter, it is difficult to know where to start. At the beginning, when his side went a goal down after 45 seconds and fought their way back via an own goal from the English player Mourinho covets most. Or at the end, when Mourinho claimed that he was waving to his wife, Tami, in the stand ­ not taunting Liverpool fans ­ and warned a reporter who suggested otherwise that he could expect a "fight".

In the end, however, this was a heroic Chelsea fightback that suggested they are not yet the sitting target in the Premiership that Manchester United might hope. Goals from Mateja Kezman and Didier Drogba, on top of Gerrard's own goal, forced them back into the contest. Then they had to hang on at the very end when Antonio Nunez, Rafael Benitez's weakest summer signing, scored an unlikely goal to bring the score back to 3-2 for the closing stages.

There was a shocking quality to the speed of Liverpool's first goal, timed at 45 seconds from the whistle of the referee, Steve Bennett, to the moment that John Arne Riise's volley billowed the net behind Petr Cech. It was created by the vision of Fernando Morientes, who collected the ball in an unpromising position on the right side of the area, turned away from William Gallas and clipped a measured cross to Cech's far post.

Waiting to connect with his left foot was Riise who had advanced without attracting Paulo Ferreira's attention. Somewhere in the hours of Mourinho preparation, Chelsea had overlooked the possibility of Liverpool summoning up the courage to take the game to them, and they were made to pay in their exhausting pursuit of an equaliser.

For a while it felt like this might be Gerrard's final ­ a thunderous tackle that echoed back off the roof of the stadium suggested so ­ but eventually the tide of blue shirts overwhelmed even the best Liverpool efforts to emerge from their own half. It was one of the most remorseless cup-final sieges, although Chelsea's best clear chance of the first half was Didier Drogba's drilled shot from the edge of the area which Dudek touched wide.

Their dominance had been unrelenting but the second half brought a greater intensity to Chelsea's purpose and within 10 minutes of the break, Drogba should have done better with a through ball to which he seemed unable to react. Within seconds, Dudek dropped brilliantly to his right to push away Eidur Gudjohnsen's shot and then scrambled up to block Gallas's effort.

Still Chelsea came. Amid the ferocity of their attack there was, against all odds, a chance for Gerrard to settle the game on 75 minutes when he closed in on a right-wing cross from substitute Nunez, but was denied from just yards out by Ferreira's challenge. Dietmar Hamann had also had a shot pushed wide by Cech, but when the equaliser came it was more galling for Liverpool than they could ever have imagined.

With 11 minutes left, Hamann checked Lampard's run down Chelsea's right and Joe Cole reacted furiously when referee Bennett decided against playing advantage. Ferreira's drifting, unthreatening free-kick skimmed a group of Liverpool defenders, but disastrously did not quite clear the head of their captain, Gerrard, whose touch was enough to direct the ball out of the reach of Dudek.

Framed on the Millennium Stadium's giant screens, Gerrard looked like he had not made his mind up between the conflicting emotions of anger and embarrassment. There was a pause following the bedlam of excitement that ran through the blue side of the stadium before they processed the delicious irony of the goal and the man who had scored it. From all around the Chelsea end rang out the name of the man who had come so close to joining them in the summer.

On the touchline, Mourinho had been unable to contain himself. Surrounded by Liverpool supporters, the Chelsea coach celebrated his side's equaliser with a finger pressed to his lips that provoked the nearest thing to a riot Cardiff had witnessed all afternoon. The police ordered the fourth official, Phil Crossley, to take him away. Banished and furious, he was unable to come out to deliver the team-talk before extra time.

Because it was to extra time that the game was heading despite chances for Duff and Lampard in a frantic attempt by Chelsea to spare themselves another half an hour's toil. Within two minutes of the game re-starting, Drogba had hit the post, but Chelsea had to wait until the second period to take the lead finally. Substitute Glen Johnson's throw drifted over the head of John Terry and fell right at the feet of Drogba on the near post to turn it in.

What seemed like the final blow for Liverpool came seconds later when Dudek pushed out a free-kick that fell to Gudjohnsen on the touchline to the right of Liverpool's goal. He threaded a cross in at the near post and substitute Kezman forced the ball just inches over Dudek's line from close range for the third. Chelsea celebrated as if they had won the Carling Cup.

With seven minutes left in extra time, however, Nunez rose higher than Cech to force home Liverpool's second. The red end exploded in hope, but substitute Igor Biscan could not convert their last chance of the closing stages. When Terry lifted his first trophy as the Chelsea captain the big screens caught a certain Russian billionaire clapping in his seat. It was a reminder that Abramovich will regard this as just the beginning.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Gallas (Kezman, 74); Makelele; Cole (Johnson, 81), Jarosik (Gudjohnsen, h-t), Lampard, Duff; Drogba. Substitutes not used: Pidgley (gk) Tiago.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Dudek; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traoré (Biscan, 67); Kewell (Nunez, 56), Hamann, Gerrard, Riise; Garcia; Morientes (Baros, 74). Substitutes not used: Pellegrino, Carson (gk).

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Chelsea: Lampard, Drogba, Duff. Liverpool: Traoré, Hyypia, Hamann, Carragher.

Man of the match: Terry.

Attendance: 78,000.

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