Michael Essien is an athletic beast. He got his head down in time for a goal line save in the 90th minute as Cech was beaten all ends up. The Blues would have gone to the semi-finals on goal aggregate even in defeat. It was a pulsating encounter with end to end action.
But Liverpool was riding on emotion with the observance of the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy this week. The odds were stacked against them. Away from home, a two goal deficit to surmount, without captain and talisman Steve Gerrard, and Chelsea's stingy defense. But two goals early in the first half had their faithful fans daring to dream. Could they pull off a win with a large enough goal margin to keep their CL hopes alive? Fabio Aurelio's free kick minus power but enough angle caught Cech by surprise. Soon after Alonso was pulled down by Ivanovic in the penalty area and the resultant PK was converted. The stands became a sea of red with fans waving flags and jerseys.
Hiddink's recent faith in Drogba has paid dividends with the physical centerforward providing a lot of the impetus in Chelsea's charge late into the season. He was right there to change the complexion of the game in the second half. Drogba's touch off an Anelka sideline cross changed the trajectory enough causing Reina to deflect the ball into his own goal. A period followed when Liverpool seemed to be penalized for every tackle with Drogba squarely in the middle. His dramatics paid off as Alex continued a Chelsea trend of defenders scoring from set pieces, blasting home a rocket of a free kick that evaded Reina. It was Drogba again who had a hand the third goal, his sidefooted pass finding an onrushing Lampard who slotted the ball past Reina. Fans who had been subdued in the first half, came alive waving flags and chanting Chelsea Chelsea. Hiddink suddenly animated, punched his fist into the air. The Blues were up 3-2 and were coasting to the semi-finals.
Liverpool did not give up and it was Benayoun's nifty feet and pass which isolated Lucas with enough time to snap of a shot which was fortuitously deflected into goal by Essien. A minute later Reira who had come on as a sub to Mascherano ran wide on the left and centered a cross which found Kuyt muscling in for the header. The pendulum had swung all the way back. This was a slugfest going all 10 rounds and the ebb and flow seemed to have drained the fans. Stamford Bridge eerily fell quiet. It was left to Lampard to score off an Anelka pass and secure the draw.
Two teams came to play. Chelsea moves on. Liverpool goes back to what will be an emotional day tomorrow. If there is to be a source of comfort to the team, it is in this, they did not let down the 96 fallen. They would have been proud of their team.