Morientes strikes to signal the end for Chelsea and Ranieri

Chelsea 2 Monaco 2 (Monaco win 5-3 on aggregate)
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The Independent Online

The old money of the House of Grimaldi proved more influential than the new riches of Roman Abramovich last night as Monaco held off Chelsea's spirited attempt to reach the final of the Champions' League.

In an ironic twist on this contest of millionaires and billionaires the decisive goal was scored by a player who has been borrowed, Fernando Morientes. The on-loan Spaniard, the bulk of whose wages are still being paid by Real Madrid, scored an equaliser shortly before the hour-mark which put the tie beyond Chelsea. It was just reward for Morientes, the most influential player of the tie, and for Monaco who deserve their place in the 26 May final in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

There they will meet Porto, currently managed by Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese is expected to replace Claudio Ranieri next season and, as he watched last night, he will have acknowledged Ranieri's belief that he leaves a club with "good foundation" but appreciated there is building still to be done.

Chelsea played with brio and endeavour but missed chances going forward and were far too open in defence. It took a fortuitous goal from Jesper Gronkjaer to put them ahead after 24 minutes and while Frank Lampard's 44th-minute goal was more typical the required two-goal lead lasted barely a minute. If Hugo Ibarra's goal was lucky and controversial Morientes' strike was pure class.

For all Abramovich's investment Chelsea lacked such quality. Not that Ranieri trusted many of his new recruits. He put his faith in the stalwarts, not the arrivistes. In making five changes from the first-leg he fielded a team which featured only three of the dozen men signed for £111m with Russian money: Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, and Géremi, a mere £20m worth. Of the available big-name signings Hernan Crespo was on the bench while Juan Sebastian Veron, whose arrival so unhinged Chelsea in Monte Carlo, did not even get there. The Argentinian claimed at the weekend he was fit but he was replaced by the rarely seen Mario Stanic.

Monaco's changes, though enforced, gave the team more solidity, Edouard Cissé and Sébastian Squillaci coming in. It soon became clear their priority was defence and the pattern of the match was quickly established: Chelsea pressed while Monaco counter-attacked. Chelsea are usually uncomfortable playing this way but only goals would change the situation. An opportunity to score one arose within the first minute when Squillaci miscued as he sought to clear Bridge's pass. The ball fell to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink but his weak shot was easily saved by Flavio Roma. The Italian goalkeeper was less sure of himself 14 minutes later when Géremi thudded a shot through the crowd fromthe edge of the box. The ball fell to Cole but he snatched at the chance, volleying wide.

Cole did not dwell on this instead displaying a neat turn to release Hasselbaink but Roma reacted sharply to parry. Patrice Evra, the Monaco left-back, was injured in this move and before he could return to his station Gronkjaer drifted inside Jérôme Rothen and crossed. Like most of Gronkjaer's crosses it did not reach its target, Chelsea's strikers. However, instead of floating into Row Z it drifted over Roma and in. Gronkjaer later admitted it was intended to be a cross.

Fluke or not Chelsea did not care. But Monaco were not to be easily brushed aside. Morientes had already tested Carlo Cudicini and would soon have levelled but for a diving John Terry to deflect his shot on to the post.

Chelsea resumed the assault with Gudjohnsen heading against the bar from Hasselbaink's excellent cross and Lampard bringing a fine save from Roma. Monaco responded with the dangerous Rothen picking out Morientes. Showing beautiful foot movement he wrong-footed the defence and bore down on Cudicini but surprisingly steered his shot wide.

As half-time approached Morientes almost had another chance as Gronkjaer recklessly rolled a square pass close to him. Ranieri turned away from the pitch in horror. He turned back just in time to see the move, continued by Mario Melchiot and Gudjohnsen, end with Lampard scoring the 15th goal of his impressive season.

Stamford Bridge exulted but the celebrations were premature. Rothen again went down the left, shrugging off Melchiot, before crossing. Morientes' header looped on to the bar, bounced back off Ibarra and in. The ball appeared to hit an arm but not intentionally.

Ibarra later said: " I thought Morientes had scored. It was only when I looked at the big screen I realised the ball had gone in off me."

Chelsea should have overcome this blow within five minutes of the resumption. Twice Bridge delivered from the left but Gudjohnsen mis-kicked, then Gronkjaer blazed over. Punishment arrived as Morientes weaved in from the left, played a one-two with Lucas Bernardi, skipping between Terry and William Gallas to take the return, and scored. Chelsea now needed three goals in 30 minutes. Though Ranieri tinkered with his substitutes it was never on and everyone knew it.

There is a beneficial side-effect for the English game. With Chelsea going the way of Arsenal and Manchester United Sven Goran Eriksson's players should be well rested for the European Championship. That was no consolation for Ranieri. His tenure will now end in anti-climax at home to relegated Leeds United in nine days' time ­ assuming he survives to then. He will leave fond memories and a sense of what might have been.

Chelsea 2
Gronkjaer 22, Lampard 43

Monaco 2
Ibarra 45, Morientes 60

Half-time: 2-1 Att: 37,132

(Monaco win 5-3 on aggregate)

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Melchiot (Johnson, 63), Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Gronkjaer, Geremi (Parker, 68), Lampard, Cole; Hasselbaink (Crespo, 68), Gudjohnsen. Substitutes not used: Ambrosini (gk), Babayaro, Stanic, Huth.

Monaco (4-4-2): Roma; Givet, Squillaci (Plasil, h-t), Rodriguez, Evra; Ibarra, Bernardi, Cissé, Rothen; Giuly (Prso, 66), Morientes (Nonda, 80). Substitutes not used: Sylva (gk), Oshadogan, Adebayor, El-Fakiri.

Referee: A Frisk (Sweden).

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