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Chelsea 2-2 Monaco: Bridge of sighs
Updated: 2004-05-06 11:31

While Chelsea's prospective new coach, Jose Mourinho, will be there for the Champions League final in Germany, their current manager, Claudio Ranieri, will not after the Blues were held 2-2 by Monaco and bowed out 5-3 on aggregate.

Monaco's Hugo Ibarra (2nd L) celebrates after scoring against Chelsea's goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini (L) as Chelsea's John Terry (2nd R) and Wayne Bridge look on during their semi-final return leg Champions League match in London. [AFP]
Ranieri's Champions League final dream may have flickered into life for two unforgettable minutes at Stamford Bridge amid a first-half of intoxicating drama.

However, with Mourinho, whose Porto side had already qualified for the final watching from the stands, Chelsea were just as quickly undone as Monaco promptly delivered a harsh dose of reality.

Jesper Gronkjaer may have given the home side the lead with what looked like a fluke 25-yard cross-shot on 22 minutes before Frank Lampard forced home a second just before the break.

However, the 2-0 lead they required to go through after Ranieri's Russian roulette with his team's fortunes in Monte Carlo lasted for only those two brief minutes.

For Chelsea failed to defend properly when it mattered most and it was deep into first-half injury-time that, amid controversy, Hugo Ibarra bundled the ball over the line. With Fernando Morientes then striking the fatal blow on 60 minutes, that, regrettably, was that for both Ranieri's position and Chelsea's Champions League ambitions.

Amid a fervently rousing atmosphere, Chelsea went for the jugular from the start, with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's first effort saved in the second minute. Monaco were, understandably, relying on the counter-attack and when Gronkjaer lost possession, they broke quickly, with Morientes' shot saved by fit-again keeper Carlo Cudicini.

Chelsea were still men on a mission, only for Joe Cole to blaze one inviting chance wide, while Hasselbaink was again denied by Flavio Roma's excellent block.

The pressure was nevertheless building, even if Chelsea's opener was either a mishit cross or the most inspired goal of Gronkjaer's career as he curled the ball into the net from the right flank. It was a Ronaldinho moment, but few inside Stamford Bridge cared as the tie was now on a knife-edge as John Terry's last-ditch block deflected Morientes' shot onto the post just three minutes later.

Eidur Gudjohnsen headed against the bar, while Lampard's volley was clawed away by Roma and then Morientes toe-poked his shot wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy. When Mario Melchiot played the ball forward to Gudjohnsen, the striker's touch was perfect, just as it had been in setting up Wayne Bridge for Chelsea's quarter-final winner at Highbury.

This time, he played the ball into the path of the onrushing Lampard, who buried his shot in the corner of the net. Stamford Bridge erupted - the match was back in their hands now.

Not for long though. For Ranieri's worries about his side's self-destructive tendencies were almost immediately justified. Just seconds before half-time, Morientes headed a cross from the superb Jerome Rothen goalwards and when the ball rebounded off the post, it appeared to strike Ibarra's arm before he forced it over the line.

While Monaco boss Didier Deschamps this time made the half-time change, switching to a virtual back five, Ranieri's finger merely hovered over the tinker switch. Still his side pressed, only for Gudjohnsen to miskick in front of goal and for Gronkjaer to fluff his lines in front of goal.

Chelsea were again made to pay with just 15 minutes of the second-half gone.

With Chelsea over-committed to attack, Monaco broke and Morientes played a neat one-two with Lucas Bernardi before clipping his shot underneath the body of the exposed figure of Cudicini.

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