Blues earn Euro edge

Riise own goal hands Chelsea the advantage

Chelsea enjoy a narrow away-goal edge over Liverpool in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League as John Arne Riise's injury-time own goal handed the Blues a 1-1 first-leg draw at Anfield.

Having been eliminated by the Reds on two previous occasions in the final four of Europe's premier club competition, Chelsea travelled to Merseyside hoping to earn an advantage ahead of next week's return meeting at Stamford Bridge.

And Avram Grant's side now sit in the box seat to secure their first appearance in a Champions League final as Riise's 95th minute conversion into his own net cancelled out Dirk Kuyt's first-half opener.

Kuyt, who scored the decisive penalty in Liverpool's shoot-out victory over Chelsea last season, put his side ahead on 43 minutes as the Dutchman took advantage of some lapse defending to latch on to a miss-hit effort from Javier Mascherano, to smash through the legs of Petr Cech from close range.

But then with Liverpool seemingly home and dry, Riise was unfortunate to stoop and head a low cross from substitute Salomon Kalou past goalkeeper Jose Reina to hand Chelsea what could prove to be a vital away draw.

Hicks present

Beforehand it had all been about the powerbrokers in the directors' box. Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks' presence may well have concerned Merseyside Police, but it was never going to be a low-key visit. Despite predictions, there was no police escort.

The Dubai International Capital delegation - who had stayed in Chester overnight - of negotiator Amanda Staveley and chief executive Sameer Al Ansari arrived with less fanfare and sat quietly away from the owners. Chief executive Rick Parry was relegated by the Hicks entourage from his usual front-row seat to way back in the box.

So much for the sideshow. Liverpool fielded the side that had beaten Arsenal in the previous round, with Chelsea having Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba back.

And they started full of desire and pace, unfazed by the vociferous Kop, who had pointedly ignored the Hicks showboating.

Liverpool needed to raise their game, and they did when Xabi Alonso's ball sent Kuyt away, Cech half stopping the effort before Ashley Cole belted it away.

But Chelsea were playing the football and Joe Cole should have done better from a Lampard chipped pass.

Steven Gerrard was being smothered by Claude Makelele everywhere he went. But one clipped pass from the Liverpool skipper after 31 minutes sent Fernando Torres clear, only for Cech to produce a vital save.

Rich form

But Liverpool's steady improvement was to produce a goal after 42 minutes. And it was all about Kuyt, with his seventh goal in 11 European ties this term.

After his run and cross preceded a poor clearance, he won the ball back from Lampard and when it was turned into the box there was Kuyt to force it under Cech's despairing dive.

That gave Liverpool all the incentive they needed to return after the break flying forward looking for another; Ryan Babel tormenting Paulo Ferreira and Gerrard and Alonso at last finding space.

Babel surged into the middle and unleashed a fierce right-footer that curled just wide.

Liverpool then lost Fabio Aurelio after an hour, collapsing with what looked like a recurrence of his groin problems. Riise sprinted into the fray.

Kalou then came on for Cole, Chelsea searching for a way back into the game. Ballack's header was held by Reina and Jamie Carragher got in the way of Kalou's close-range shot. The balance was swinging again, Drogba a constant threat. Liverpool sent on Yossi Benayoun for Babel with 15 minutes left.

Sucker punch

Carragher's stunning tackle on Lampard stopped an almost certain goal, Liverpool now living on their nerves as Chelsea surged forward.

Cech made a fine save to stop Gerrard's dipping volley, before Torres, who had a tough time against John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, lost control when put clear by Gerrard.

Terry was booked for a body-check on Mascherano in injury-time, and Cech saved superbly again from Torres.

But the sucker punch was to come. In the fifth minute of time added on, Riise dived forward in the six-yard box to head a Kalou cross into the roof of his own net, under pressure from Nicolas Anelka.

The Kop were stunned, Chelsea delirious, somehow they had achieved the away goal and draw they desperately wanted.

Liverpool Team Statistics Chelsea
1 Goals 1
1 1st Half Goals 0
6 Shots on Target 3
4 Shots off Target 0
2 Blocked Shots 4
6 Corners 5
20 Fouls 17
1 Offsides 6
0 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
74.5 Passing Success 72.5
28 Tackles 26
78.6 Tackles Success 46.2
54.6 Possession 45.4
52.8 Territorial Advantage 47.2