Wednesday’s Papers: Advantage Chelsea

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An absolutely gutting disaster. In a matter of seconds, the whole tie turned around last night. After 94 minutes, Liverpool lead Chelsea 1-0 thanks to Dirk Kuyt’s opportunist strike just before half-time. The result would mean Chelsea having to score in the second leg of this Champions League semi-final tie next Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. By the 95th minute, John Arne Riise’s own goal had silenced Anfield and now means Liverpool must go to Chelsea next week needing to score.

The Telegraph’s web site were quickly inspired by Riise’s last gasp shocker to report six of the worst own goals of all time. Our own Steven Gerrard get’s in there with his ‘effort’ against Chelsea in the 2005 Carling Cup Final.

On last night’s match, this morning’s newspapers seem to have one main recurring theme in agreement – that Chelsea hold the advantage now.

Henry Winter of The Telegraph summarises:

Advantage Chelsea. With almost the last touch of the game, deep into stoppage time, Chelsea gained a lifeline in this Champions League semi-final with John Arne Riise’s terrible own goal cancelling Dirk Kuyt’s first-half strike. Chelsea returned south with a precious away goal and a belief that they can reach the final in Moscow.

The Guardian’s Kevin McCarra believes the last minute blunder by the Norweigan was disasterous for Rafael Benitez in showing the progression he has made with his team from that who defeated the Blues in the Champions League semi-final at Anfield both in 2005 and 2007.

Liverpool can barely absorb these events. They were far more dominant last night than they had been when prevailing over the same opponents at Anfield in the second leg of the semi-finals last year and in 2005. The manager, Rafael Benítez, was moments away from giving a measured account of the progress Liverpool had made under his stewardship. He would have had every right to do so.

The inconsolable face of substitute Riise hits all the back (and some front) pages this morning, but Andy Hunter of The Guardian comments on the club’s co-owner Tom Hicks making an appearance at Anfield last night, leaving, like the fans, in utter shock.

A smooth procession ruined by an inexplicable decision to stick one’s neck out; the parallels between Tom Hicks’ Liverpool reign and John Arne Riise’s own goal were unavoidable at Anfield. For months the Liverpool co-owner has sought common ground with the club’s disgruntled supporters and while both were united in disbelief last night, it may be the Texan who ultimately has cause to rue the Norwegian’s aberration more than most.

It’s back to the Premier League now for Rafael Benitez’s men and a trip on Saturday to St. Andrews to face relegation threatened Birmingham City.