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Rediff.com  » Sports » Liverpool in Champions semis

Liverpool in Champions semis

Last updated on: April 14, 2005 10:48 IST

Liverpool reached the Champions League semi-finals after a battling goalless draw at Juventus on Wednesday secured a 2-1 aggregate victory.

Liverpool, who have won the European Cup four times, will now face Chelsea in the first all-English semi-final after the Premier League leaders got past Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

The closest Juve came to scoring was when Fabio Cannavaro headed against the post after 78 minutes and they will regret the great chance missed by their Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the early stages of a disappointing match.

"I'm very proud of the staff and the players," Liverpool's Spanish manager Rafael Benitez told Sky Sports. "For us it's important to give this result to our supporters."

Juve coach Fabio Capello told Italian television: "They were a difficult side to play against because they closed down the space and were then quick on the break. We had a good game, but unfortunately we just weren't able to score."

Liverpool's outstanding defending ensured they eliminated the joint leaders of Serie A in a game that reversed traditional stereotypes of English and Italian approaches to the game.

ROUTE ONE

While Liverpool produced a classic Italian-style 'catenaccio' defensive display relying on counter-attacks, a well below par Juve were often reduced to old-fashioned English 'route one' football relying on long balls forward.

The triumph means Liverpool reach the last four in Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 1985 when they went on to lose 1-0 to Juventus in the ill-fated final at the Heysel Stadium.

The tragedy at that game, which resulted in the deaths of 39 mostly Italian fans, hung over both legs of this quarter-final tie -- the first meeting of the clubs since the final in Brussels.

The return game took place in a contrasting atmosphere to the first-leg at Anfield where Liverpool fans had attempted to make peace and offer friendship before their team won 2-1.

After clashes between Juve fans and police outside the stadium on Wednesday, Italian supporters threw objects into the Liverpool section shortly before kickoff with some English fans returning the missiles into the Juventus stand.

Juventus fans did pay their own tribute to the victims of the tragedy that occurred 20 years ago, however, with banners that drew respectful applause from around the ground.

Other banners in English were more blunt, declaring 'English Animals' and 'Easy to speak -- difficult to pardon murders'.

Once the game was underway Juve had an early chance to take the lead on the night when Gianluca Zambrotta burst down the left and slipped a low cross to Ibrahimovic but the Swedish striker shot over from just seven metres.

SCRAPPY AFFAIR

That was the only real chance of a scrappy first half with both teams giving the ball away too easily in midfield.

Liverpool, with Czech striker Milan Baros alone in attack, showed little ambition to push forward but with a one goal lead from the first leg they had no need to.

Desperate to liven up his attack Juve coach Fabio Capello brought on Uruguayan striker Marcelo Zalayeta at halftime in place of his ineffective compatriot midfielder Ruben Olivera.

But the first chance fell to Baros, who wriggled free of Paolo Montero and evaded Lilian Thuram to move in on goal but poked his shot wide of Gianluigi Buffon's left-hand post.

With three strikers on the field Juventus increasingly chose a direct route towards goal but their long balls rarely troubled the hugely impressive central defensive pairing of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was brought into action in the 64th minute as he dived to push away a header from Emerson who met a floated free kick from Mauro Camoranesi.

Then in the 78th minute Juve struck the woodwork when Alessandro Del Piero fired a free kick across the area and Liverpool defender Djimi Traore's back-header struck Fabio Cannavaro's on the head and rebounded against the post.

That was the last real threat from the Italians whose late pressure brought no danger to Dudek and relief to Liverpool's Spanish coach Benitez who has succeeded in returning the club to the European elite in his first season on Merseyside.