Chelsea will meet Manchester United in the first all-English Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-2 following extra time in London.
United beat Barcelona on Tuesday night to ensure their place in the Moscow showpiece on May 21, and a Didier Drogba double plus a penalty from Frank Lampard – in the side for the first time since the death of his mother – ensured Avram Grant’s side join them.
Fernando Torres cancelled out Drogba’s opener in the second half to send the tie into extra time but Lampard put the Blues back ahead on 98 and Drogba added a third seven minutes later to render Ryan Babel’s late strike a consolation.
Chelsea started the better of the two sides at Stamford Bridge with Drogba testing Jose Reina from 20 yards and Michael Essien firing narrowly over from just outside the box.
Liverpool, with Yossi Benayoun surprisingly included ahead of Babel in midfield, were sluggish, but they created the best opportunity of the game in the 10th minute when Torres broke into the box and had a shot saved by Petr Cech from a narrow angle.
Drogba then missed an even better chance at the other end when he slid an effort just wide of the far post after being sent clean through by Lampard.
Chelsea were well on top, though, and they made their dominance pay in the 33rd minute. Reina pulled off a decent save to palm away Soloman Kalou’s 15-yard effort but the ball fell only as far as Drogba, who superbly lashed home at the near post from a tight angle to give the hosts a half-time lead.
Liverpool improved at the start of the second period with Dirk Kuyt’s header forcing Cech into a good save, but Chelsea looked dangerous going forward themselves and Reina was fortunate to see Lampard drive straight at him from the edge of the box.
But then almost from nowhere, in the 64th minute, Benayoun set off on a jinking run from the right, slipping past two defenders before playing in Torres, who calmly slotted past Cech from just inside the box to score the Reds first goal at Stamford Bridge in nine games under Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool sensed another European final was within their grasp again and they upped the tempo after Torres’ strike. Chelsea on the other hand began to look nervous but still managed to create the better openings, with Essien’s close-range shot into the sidenetting in the 76th minute the nearest either side came to a winning goal in normal time.
Sami Hyypia headed a Steven Gerrard corner narrowly wide a couple of minutes into extra time before a crazy couple of minutes at the other end eventually saw Chelsea go back ahead.
Drogba was denied by a superb last-ditch Jamie Carragher challenge after breaking into the box and the resulting corner saw mass panic in the visiting ranks.
Nicolas Anelka’s effort was blocked by a sea of Red bodies but it sat up perfectly on the edge of the box for Essien to superbly rifle past Reina. The goal initially appeared to be a perfectly good one but the linesman correctly flagged for the three offside Blue shirts standing in front of the goalkeeper.
Then, just three minutes later on 98, Hyypia clumsily brought Ballack down just inside the box and Lampard showed nerves of steel to step up and send Reina the wrong way to the jubilation of the home crowd.
Benitez surprisingly withdrew Torres for Babel in the aftermath of the goal and if that made the Reds’ task a tough one, Drogba’s second goal on the stroke of the interval made it a near-impossible one.
Nicolas Anelka cut the ball back from the byeline and the Ivorian made no mistake from close range as he edged Chelsea tantalisingly close to Moscow.
But Liverpool do not know when they are beaten in Europe and they predictably set up a frantic final few minutes when Babel fired into the top corner from all of 30 yards in the 117th minute.
However, there was to be no fairytale finish this time and Chelsea hung on to keep their double dream alive.