Liverpool prevail on penalty kicks

Updated: 03 May 2007 17:55 IST

Liverpool's mastery in winning penalty kick shootouts extends to even the guys who weren't on the team two years ago.

Liverpool, England:

Liverpool's mastery in winning penalty kick shootouts extends to even the guys who weren't on the team two years ago.

First-year Reds striker Dirk Kuyt converted the winner to give Liverpool a 4-1 shootout victory over Chelsea Tuesday, sending Liverpool to the European Champions League final for the second time in three years.

"It was very special for me, it's going to be my first final," Kuyt said.

After prevailing over AC Milan in the final two years ago on penalties, Liverpool needed the tiebreaker again Tuesday at Anfield after a 1-0 score over 120 minutes tied the semifinal 1-1 on aggregate.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina blocked attempts Arjen Robben and Geremi, and Boudewijn Zenden, substitute Xabi Alonso and captain Steven Gerrard all converted for the Reds to set the stage for Kuyt's dramatic winner.

"Just a last step," said Reina, who was beaten only by Frank Lampard. "We must do it."

The penalties were required after Daniel Agger scored the aggregate equaliser for Liverpool in 23rd minute, one-timing a low cross with his left foot from the top of the area inside the left post.

"We had confidence because we had players who practice in every training session, they like to do it," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.

Kuyt also had a goal disallowed in the 10th minute of extra time and had a powerful shot saved by Petr Cech with only one minute to go.

Liverpool heads to the May 23 final in Athens against either Manchester United or AC Milan, which plays their second leg on Wednesday. United won the first leg 3-2.

Mourinho defiant

Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho was defiant in defeat.

"Everybody has to try to be strong. I think they have a lot of reasons to be proud of themselves," Mourinho said. "They were the best team today ... In extra time we were the only team who tried to win, but football is like that and the penalty shootout is part of the game."

This is the third time Chelsea has been eliminated in the Champions League semifinals. It was beaten by Liverpool in 2005 and by Monaco in 2004.

Gerrard said comments attributed to Mourinho before the game annoyed his teammates.

"I think he was a bit disrespectful calling us a little club," Gerrard said. "Two finals in three years - not bad for a little club."

With American owners George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks, Liverpool took the lead when Agger capitalised on poor marking by Chelsea.

Instead of sending the ball into the penalty area, Gerrard squared his free kick to Agger, who flicked the ball with his first touch for his first Champions League goal.

Chelsea's first threatening effort came in the 32nd when Didier Drogba ran onto a ball from John Obi Mikel, but his shot from the right side was straight at Reina, who blocked the powerful strike.

In the 39th, Drogba headed wide from a corner by Frank Lampard and Reina also Reina punched clear a high ball from Lampard on the stroke of halftime.

The game maintained its high tempo after the restart, with the Reds looking more dangerous.

Peter Crouch used his height to connect with Jermaine Pennant's looping cross in the 56th. Cech reacted quickly with his feet to deny the lanky striker and Chelsea captain John Terry kicked the ball clear.

Three minutes later, Kuyt headed against the crossbar.

When Terry gave the ball away in the 71st, Pennant found himself in space to unleash a shot, which Michael Essien deflected away.

Essien returned the lineup after a one-match ban with Ricardo Carvalho ruled out with a knee injury.

After Liverpool's dominance, Ashley Cole surged down the left flank in the 75th, but when he sent the ball into the box Jamie Carragher got in front of Drogba to clear.

Chelsea played without striker Andriy Shevchenko, who denied reports that he refused to travel with the team and watched from the stands. Midfielder Michael Ballack was missing due to an ankle operation.

Topics : Football Liverpool
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