Chelsea, Monaco advance to Champions Cup semifinals

Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1 on Tuesday to enter the semifinals of the UEFA Championship.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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London, Monaco:

Most impartial soccer fans couldn't wait to see Real Madrid face Arsenal in the Champions Cup semifinals. Maybe next year. Monaco shocked nine-time European champion Madrid 3-1 yesterday to advance to the semifinals on away goals, while Chelsea eliminated London-rival Arsenal after winning 2-1. Both Madrid and Arsenal, which are in first place in their respective leagues, took first-half leads and looked a sure bet to meet in the first leg of the semifinals on April 20. But Ludovic Giuly, who scored two goals, netted the series-decider for Monaco to set the aggregate score at 5-5 and put the hosts in the semifinals. "Everybody writes their own story, and the players are writing a superb page for Monaco and all of French football," Monaco coach Didier Deschamps said. "It wasn't easy but we deserved it. It's proof that in football, anything can happen. You just have to believe until the end." Wayne Bridge was the hero for Chelsea, scoring in the 87th minute to put the Blues ahead 2-1 and 3-2 on aggregate when the match looked like it was going into extra time. "It was a great ball from Eidur (Gudjohnsen)," Bridge said. "I didn't think I was going to get it back but when it came I just side-footed it into the corner." Instead of the mouthwatering Madrid-Arsenal semifinal, Monaco will host Chelsea in the first leg. Monaco 3 Real Madrid 1 In Monaco, Raul Gonzalez scored the first goal of the match for Madrid in the 35th minute, beating Monaco goalkeeper Flavio Roma after a Ronaldo pass. Giuly equalized with a volley in the 45th, and Fernando Morientes, who is on loan from Madrid, headed in another in the 48th. "We're still not conscious of the miracle we've just achieved," said Giuly, who backheeled the last strike off a cross from Hugo Ibarra in the 66th. France star Zinedine Zidane looked at the match from a different angle. "We let in the goal just before halftime and then it was very difficult for us," Zidane said. "The victory is deserved...We've got to accept that Monaco was far better than us." Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1 In London, Frank Lampard netted the equalizer in the 51st after Arsenal failed to clear a cross. Jose Antonio Reyes had given the Gunners the lead in the 45th, firing a low shot past goalkeeper Marco Ambrosio after several Arsenal touches in front of the net. It was Chelsea's first victory in 18 games against the Gunners going back to November 1998. "The fans have suffered," Lampard said. "We haven't won against Arsenal for 19 games but they were all worth it as the longer it went on the stronger we got and we deserved to win." Arsenal, which is unbeaten in 30 league games and leads the league by four points over Chelsea, lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday. "When you are such a long unbeaten run as we are, when you lose the first game you know by experience that you are in trouble for the next one," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Once you hit the wall you take some time to recover." The win keeps Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri's hopes of winning the Champions Cup alive, despite beliefs that he will be fired no matter what the team achieves. Owner Roman Abramovich is reported to want a bigger name at the helm. The Champions Cup final is scheduled for May 26 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Deportivo de La Coruna faces defending champion AC Milan tonight, hoping to overcome a 4-1 deficit after the first leg. In the other quarterfinal, Lyon takes on FC Porto after losing 2-0 to the Portuguese champions two weeks ago. The winners will face each other in the semifinals. (AP)