"YOU CAN spend millions on the best players and invest in one of the world's top coaches, but the one thing you can never buy is fans."
With every tackle, interception and headed clearance, Jamie Carragher was flawless on the pitch.
With the above statement an hour after taking a leading role in the newest episode of Anfield folklore, Carragher proved he's as word perfect off it.
As Roman Abramovich sat distraught in the directors' box perhaps wondering if his cheques could have purchased another minute of injury time, he no doubt cursed his chief executive's inability to conclude the one deal which will forever elude him - transferring the Kop to the Fulham Road.
Great football clubs are built on attitude, class and raw passion, as much as skill. The Londoners have shown over the course of the season they possess at least a quarter of these assets, but only at Anfield did they witness the missing components which differentiate the fakes from the real deal.
Chelsea yielded under the force of a cacophony of noise and 11 red jerseys willing to respond to every cry for their blood from an hysterically supportive audience.
They never have nights like this at Stamford Bridge. It just doesn't matter to them as much as it does to Liverpool. The contrast in mood between this week and last showed this may have been an all-English tie, but such is the difference between the clubs' fans Liverpool may as well be a different country.
The Anfield tales are not myths. There was substance to the pre-match hype and the most reliable stadium in Europe delivered on its promise.
Perhaps Jose Mourinho was partly right. The crowd didn't intimidate him or his squad. What he could never legislate for was the extra yards, additional strength and jumbo-powered desire injected into every home player via the Kop.
From the first whistle, cheer and cry for refereeing mercy until the last, the response from Rafa Benitez's heroic side defied the logic of Premier-ship under-achievement.
Never a classic, this was nonetheless one of the most enthralling, stomach-churning night's entertainment this stadium has witnessed.
Predictions of a cagey opening were dismissed within three minutes when John Arne Riise's skill, Steven Gerrard's perfectly weighted pass and Milan Baros' movement carved open Chelsea's defence.
The eccentric Slovakian referee, Lubos Michel, either missed Petr Cech's moving tribute to German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher or thought there was an advantage to be played.
Luis Garcia didn't hang around. Television replays suggested it was inconclusive as to whether the ball crossed the line before William Gallas cleared. Chelsea should be relieved the goal stood. The alternative was a red card for Cech and a Liverpool penalty which, presumably, would have led to the same conclusion.
The similarity to Cardiff was uncanny with the Reds using an early goal to retreat into a containing game.
There were enough flaws to cause concern. The Reds didn't pass the ball well or pose enough threat once they had the lead. Had an equaliser arrived, as in Wales, one suspects there would be nothing with which to respond. This time, there would be no heartbreaking deflections.
The defensive unit was immovable. Carragher's excellence was matched by Sami Hyypia, Steve Finnan and Djimi Traore.
Traore has been an unsung hero of the European campaign, while Finnan will be second only to Carragher when the Anfield Player of the Year gongs are handed out.
As for Hyypia, if this was the performance of a defender preparing himself for a fight to stay in the side next season, Benitez must have one hell of a centre-half lined up. Against Juventus and Chelsea, the giant Finn has arguably served up four of the most impressive displays of his career.
Defending wasn't just limited to the defence, of course. Didi Hamann matched Xabi Alonso's efforts in Turin, defying medical science before his legs understandably withered, having picked up every scrap in midfield.
John Arne Riise, Igor Biscan and Gerrard chased, harried and covered for their teammates to ensure every new Chelsea attack fizzled out into a series of red cul-de-sacs.
Garcia can now declare himself the man for the big occasion, maintaining his record of scoring when it matters most, while Baros and Djibril Cisse did all they were asked in a match where unselfishness was always going to be their most essential role.
Attacks? There were a few, but then again, too few too mention. Neither side could penetrate the other. One decisive moment was destined to linger in the memory.
Had it gone Chelsea's way, as on New Year's Day, they'd have retreated like Liverpool and counter-attacked. In those circumstances, no doubt Mourinho's tactical awareness would have been lauded as the key to victory.
The 'special one' turned out to be rather ordinary when matters came to a head.
Once Arjen Robben's introduction had failed to carve out an equaliser, Mourinho displayed all of his supernatural powers to use a ploy which had every Sunday
League manager in the country nodding in approval.
He summoned the tallest substitute he had left, a centre-half, threw him up front and ordered his defenders to launch the ball onto Robert Huth's head. It's not often such coaching genius is witnessed at Anfield. Well, not since Wimbledon's relegation.
Benitez was streets ahead in the battle of minds, with only a late disaster standing in his way.
Mourinho, who didn't bother to join the queue when gracefulness was dished out, read the game differently.
Benitez suffered in dignified silence on New Year's Day when Tiago's handball was ignored by Mike Riley. A cruel own goal denied him his first trophy on English soil.
Such incidents escaped the Portuguese boss' memory when his tale of woe was recounted. At least he couldn't complain about a lack of injury time.
Chelsea were granted six minutes of itand Eidur Gudjohnsen was inches away from reviving memories of Arsenal in 1989, rather than St Etienne in 1977.
One presumes Xabi Alonso's guardian angel momentarily inter-fered with the Icelandic striker's sense of direction as he fired beautifully wide.
The Slovakian referee's whistle and triumphant Kop signalled the start of the biggest party at Anfield since the last league title.
When Liverpool last prepared for what proved a notorious European Cup Final, who would have predicted the two decades which would follow?
Managerial upheaval, wasted millions, decline in status at home and abroad, humiliating cup exits and a 14-year championship drought.
For older supporters and explayers, this night revived images of a distant past. For their sons and daughters, these events meant more than those forefathers can ever imagine.
Liverpool Football Club has undergone an era of immense change in the last 20 years.
Last night proved some things will never change.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Dudek; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore; Hamann (Kewell 73), Biscan; Garcia (Nunez 84), Gerrard, Riise; Baros (Cisse 59). Subs: Carson, Smicer, Warnock, Welsh.
BOOKING: Baros (foul).
CHELSEA (4-3-2-1): Cech; Geremi (Huth 76), Carvalho, Terry, Gallas; Tiago (Kezman 68), Makelele, Lampard; Gudjohnsen, Cole (Robben 68); Drogba. Subs: Cudicini, Johnson, Forssell, Nuno Morais.
REFEREE: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)
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