Triumph for Benitez as Liverpool line up semi-final against Chelsea

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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, said he was "proud and delighted but not surprised," after Liverpool secured an unexpected aggregate victory over Juventus in Turin last night.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, said he was "proud and delighted but not surprised," after Liverpool secured an unexpected aggregate victory over Juventus in Turin last night.

A well-earned goalless draw was enough to send the four-time European Cup winners through to meet Chelsea in the last four, the first time two English teams have contested the competition's semi-final.

The result ensured that there will be an English finalist in the Istanbul final next month, the first since Manchester United won the competition in 1999 and only the second since English clubs were banned from Europe in the wake of the 1985 Heysel disaster.

This was the first match played in Turin by Liverpool since that night, when 39 Juventus supporters died, and it did not pass without crowd violence. Fortunately this appeared to be restricted, within the ground, to missile-throwing, though riot police were required to use tear gas outside to keep home fans at bay when the travelling support arrived. There had previously been some minor incidents in Turin.

Benitez, who was necessarily more concerned with events on the pitch, said: "I am incredibly proud. We have been inconsistent this year but I am delighted. I am not surprised because we have been working hard and we have confidence."

Chelsea have beaten Liverpool three times this season, twice in the Premiership and in the League Cup final, but Benitez said: "The second and third matches we almost won. We are very close [to beating Chelsea], maybe next time. It will be difficult, they are top of the Premier League. But we have confidence in Champions' League games and we will have nothing to lose."

Fabio Capello, the Juventus manager, complimented Liverpool on their compact performance, picking out the goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, who was recalled in place of Scott Carson, and Sami Hyypia, who has been dropped in League matches in favour of Mauricio Pellegrino, who is cup-tied in Europe. The Juventus manager added that he believed a draw would have been a more accurate reflection of the two legs.

Juventus, who seemed weighed down by the need to win ­ for themselves, their supporters and most of all for the memory of the dead of Heysel ­ produced few chances. The best was missed by Zlaten Ibrahimovic after 10 minutes, although Fabio Cannavaro appeared to have scrambled the ball over the line in the 78th minute only for the referee to wave play on. If the "goal" had counted Juventus would have gone through on away goals.

Instead it is Liverpool who will meet Chelsea on 27 April and 3 May. The encounter between England's most successful club and its richest will either signal the revival of Liverpool or confirm the arrival of Chelsea.

Liverpool v Chelsea: The story so far this season

* Liverpool have played Chelsea three times this season and lost each game by the odd goal. At Stamford Bridge in October, Joe Cole scored the winner after a quickly taken free-kick on 64 minutes.

* At Anfield on New Year's Day, Chelsea again won 1-0 with a Cole goal ­ a shot that deflected in off Jamie Carragher with 10 minutes to go. Liverpool were seething at the referee Mike Riley for failing to spot a handball by Tiago with the score at 0-0.

* At the League Cup final in Cardiff in February, Liverpool pierced the Chelsea rearguard but after defending a 1-0 lead for 78 minutes, Steven Gerrard scored an own goal to take the game to extra-time and Chelsea won 3-2.

* Champions' League semi-final dates: First leg ­ Wednesday 27 April: Chelsea v Liverpool.

Second leg ­ Tuesday 3 May: Liverpool v Chelsea

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