Take it as Red

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The Independent Football

They talked about destiny calling and last night Liverpool embraced theirs and smashed the apparently relentless hegemony of Jose Mourinho, Roman Abramovich and Chelsea to reach their first European Cup final in two decades.

They talked about destiny calling and last night Liverpool embraced theirs and smashed the apparently relentless hegemony of Jose Mourinho, Roman Abramovich and Chelsea to reach their first European Cup final in two decades.

The match was thick with controversy, however. Luis Garcia's fourth-minute goal, the only one of the attritional tie, was fiercely disputed and television replays, from four different camera angles, were inconclusive as to whether it crossed the line before it was cleared by William Gallas. Such was the margin between success and failure to the final in Istanbul on 25 May.

Mourinho accused the Slovakian assistant referee, who was nevertheless well placed, of having been influenced by the crowd and the occasion which, for its cyclonic passion and raw desire, ranked alongside the Anfield nights of the 1970s and 1980s when Liverpool won the European Cup an imperious four times.

"When I was speaking about the power of Anfield Road I felt it did not interfere with my players or my team," said Mourinho, who was denied the chance of making history himself by becoming the first manager to retain the trophy. In inflammatory comments, which may invite official analysis, he added: "But maybe it interfered with other people and the result. You should bring the linesman here and ask him why he gives a goal. To give a goal it must be 100 per cent the ball in ­ 100 per cent. He made a mistake. I respect that."

The Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez brushed aside Mourinho's prickly complaints and rightly pointed out that Chelsea's goalkeeper Petr Cech had fouled Milan Baros seconds before the goal was given. "I have not seen the goal but I have seen a penalty and red card before," he said. "At the end it was a good call."

Even the Liverpool players were unsure, however, with their captain Steven Gerrard saying: "I don't know whether the ball was over the line. But we are in the final and that's the most important thing. We have beaten the Premiership champions for the first time in five games and it was worth the wait."

Gerrard, whose future has been a constant soap opera involving Chelsea, said he was overwhelmed by the supporters and had wanted to "jump in there with them". The man of the match Jamie Carragher, an astonishing defensive rock, who even deflected a goal-bound Eidur Gudjohnsen shot in injury time, added: "This club has been built on these types of night and we have been desperate to bring those days back. There were wonderful scenes at the end."

And at the start, and throughout. "Respect for your elders gives you character" read one of the banners as "You'll Never Walk Alone" rang out prior to kick-off. And character was shown throughout by Liverpool, who deserved their triumph against a clearly tired Chelsea. "It is difficult for me to explain my feelings because my English is not the best," Benitez said. But he did not have to find words. He had delivered something far richer in his first season in English football and is on course to emulate Mourinho, who won the Uefa Cup and European Cup in successive seasons. "You go to a final for winning. We have got this far and are determined to complete the job," he said.

Mourinho said he hoped Liverpool did win, but was adamant "the best team lost, that's for sure, and did not deserve to lose. But football is sometimes cruel and I have to accept the reality of football. They scored, if you can say they scored. You can say the linesman scored." He said it was a goal "coming from the moon ... or the Anfield Road stand".

It was ungenerous, and given that Mourinho has won two trophies already this season, and given the resources at his disposal, graceless. He rightly pointed out that injuries to Damien Duff and Arjen Robben meant his team "lacked power". He said he hoped Robben, who has a damaged ankle, is not criticised. "A boy who risked his future to try and help his team," Mourinho said.

This was the sides' fifth meeting this season, but the first time Liverpool had prevailed. Gerrard said the previous disappointments were worth it now that last night's victory had been secured.

Mourinho was unstinting that he remained "the Special One". "I know I cannot win everything. I cannot complain with my success," he said. "I cannot complain with my players, my career, with God because I believe in him and he is always with me and still is." He deserted him last night, however, and smiled on Liverpool instead. They deserved it.

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