Ballack scores brace
Leverkusen tops Liverpool 4-2 to make final fourPosted: Tuesday April 09, 2002 5:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 09, 2002 7:51 PM
LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) -- Brazilian defender Lucio stunned FC Liverpool with a 84th minute goal Tuesday, giving Bayer Leverkusen a 4-2 victory and a trip to the Champions League semifinals.
The famed English squad's seemed to have secured its first semifinal appearance in 17 years five minutes earlier when Finnish forward Jiri Litmanen scored from close range, which would have allowed advancement on the away goals rule.
Unheralded Leverkusen, enjoying a remarkable season, reached the semifinals for the first time in history with a 4-3 aggregrate after a dramatic match and after a 1-0 first leg loss at Anfield.
"We thought we could win, but that it would be so dramatic, we couldn't know that," said Leverkusen forward Thomas Brdaric.
Before Litmanen's heroics, Leverkusen had rocked one of Europe's most formidable defenses with goals in the 67th by Dimitar Berbatow and Michael Ballack's second score of the match three minutes earlier.
Leverkusen earned the victory by pressuring Liverpool the entire second half, turning around the match after its hopes appeared to be buried when Liverpool's Portuguese defender Abel Xavier headed in a cross in the 42nd minute.
Xavier's goal leveled the match at 1-1, after Ballack's 16th minute score, and left the Bundesliga frontrunners needing two more scores not to be ousted on the away goals rule.
After the Leverkusen comeback, which helped end Liverpool's 15-match unbeaten streak in Europe in away matches, Litmanen turned the match around once again -- appearing to give the favored English side the victory.
Litmanen, inserted into the match for the ineffective Emile Heskey, drove in from the left past four Leverkusen players after Danny Murphy kicked the ball out to him. The Finn then rifled the ball just inside the right post.
But almost before Liverpool could celebrate, Lucio -- with the Liverpool players calling for offside -- swooped in from the left, collected Yildiray Basturk's through past and blasted an attempt past Polish 'keeper Jerzy Dudek and inside the left post.
"Nobody expected us to reach the semifinals; now we want the finals," said Ballack, who has collected five goals in the competition.
Leverkusen remains in the hunt for a treble, including the Bundesliga and German Cup titles, while Liverpool's hopes were dashed for a first title in the competition since 1985.
It also spoiled Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier first European away match since September and after his heart attack.
For Bayern manager Klaus Toppmoeller, the key goal was Ballack's 64th minute header, when he outleaped several Liverpool defenders, and suddenly put Leverkusen one tantalizing goal away from advancement.
"That goal seemed to rattle Liverpool. He's our man for important goals," said Toppmoeller.
Houllier not bitter as Reds bow out fighting
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier insisted he was not bitter after a great night of football saw his team bow out of the Champions League with a 4-2 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
"Of course I have regrets because we did miss chances but there is no bitterness in my words," said Houllier, who was making his first foreign trip since suffering a heart scare last year.
There were plenty of emotions for the Frenchman in a thrilling quarter-final second which the Bundesliga leaders bravely won for a 4-3 victory on aggregate.
"I have nothing to reproach my players because they showed character and I'm satisfied with our European campaign as a whole," said Houllier, who had last ventured abroad to Borussia Dortmund in September before falling ill and requiring major heart surgery.
The visitors, who won the first leg 1-0 at Anfield last week, looked to be through when a goal from substitute Jari Litmanen with 11 minutes remaining meant they were set to qualify on the away goals rule despite a 3-2 defeat.
"I thought we were through," admitted Houllier, whose hopes were shattered when Brazilian defender Lucio struck from inside the box six minutes from time to seal the tie for Leverkusen.
"What can you do? That's football."
Houllier was careful not to blame striker Michael Owen, who looked rusty as he wasted a handful of chances. He had comforting words for forward Emile Heskey, who had to be substituted with a hamstring injury before the end of the first half.
"I'd like to pay a special homage to Emile, who played despite returning only on Sunday from Antigua, where he attended the funeral of his grandmother," the Liverpool manager said.
Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmoeller was lost for words after his team offered a spectacular show to reach the semifinals of Europe's showcase club event for the first time.
"I just can't believe it," he said. "I knew we stood a chance but what happened tonight is just crazy.
"I had said before the game that we had nothing to lose," he added. "After the break we put them under more pressure and concentrated on attacking. We dismantled our flat back-four, which was a big risk, but it paid off."
Germany head coach Rudi Voeller, a former sporting director and player at Leverkusen, was elated after the club he once graced produced one its most glorious moments.
"That was sensational," said the former World Cup striker. "That is the biggest victory in the club's history."
Voeller and all the Leverkusen fans could soon have more to celebrate as the club from an industrial town outside Cologne are four points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund with just four Bundesliga matches left and could soon be landing their first German crown.
They should face another English club in the semifinals of the Champions League, providing Manchester United hold their 2-0 victory over Deportivo Coruna at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Bayer Leverkusen 4 Liverpool 2 - result
Champions League quarter-final, second leg
First leg: 0-1; Bayer Leverkusen win 4-3 on aggregate.
Bayer Leverkusen - Michael Ballack 16, 63, Dimitar Berbatov 68, Lucio 84
Liverpool - Abel Xavier 42, Jari Litmanen 79
Halftime: 1-1; Attendance: 22,500
Bayer Leverkusen - 1-Hans-Joerg Butt; 26-Zoltan Sebescen (12-Dimitar Berbatov 46), 19-Lucio, 5-Jens Nowotny, 35-Diego Placente; 25-Bernd Schneider, 13-Michael Ballack, 10-Yildiray Basturk, 8-Ze Roberto; 9-Ulf Kirsten (27-Oliver Neuville 46), 23-Thomas Brdaric (6-Boris Zivkovic 70).
Liverpool - 12-Jerzy Dudek; 18-John Arne Riise, 4-Sami Hyypia, 2-Stephane Henchoz, 23-Jamie Carragher, 3-Abel Xavier (15-Patrik Berger 74); 13-Danny Murphy, 16-Dietmar Hamann (7-Vladimir Smicer 61), 17-Steven Gerrard; 8-Emile Heskey (37-Jari Litmanen 41), 10-Michael Owen.
Referee: Vitor Manuel Melo Pereira (Portugal)
Reuters contributed to this report.