Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rock of Anfield Is Final Barrier; If Chelsea Are to Reach the Istanbul Showpiece Then They Must Find a Way Past the Formidable Jamie Carragher

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rock of Anfield Is Final Barrier; If Chelsea Are to Reach the Istanbul Showpiece Then They Must Find a Way Past the Formidable Jamie Carragher

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

IT WAS utterly predictable that John Terry should have again led the way in barring Liverpool's path and in enabling Chelsea to face their Anfield inquisition next Tuesday with equanimity. What was rather more surprising was that the new footballers' footballer of the year should have been quite outshone by an opposing centre-back who didn't get a look in for a PFA award.

Not to the visiting Red army, though. Stamford Bridge wasn't serenaded with the Anfield standard "We all dream of a team of Carraghers" - to the tune of Yellow Submarine, naturally - but their devotion to Jamie Carragher can only have been heightened by another defensive performance so towering that they must fancy he could yet prove an impenetrable barrier to Chelsea's ambitions of European domination.

The biggest compliment you could pay Carragher was that he was, well, Terry-like in marshalling and inspiring his troops. Yet anyone up the Anfield Road will tell you he has been like this all season. It was, they believe, little short of a scandal that he didn't get selected in the PFA Premiership team of the year alongside Terry, the man Carragher himself voted for as player of the season.

So last night, after Carragher's umpteenth thumping header had cleared the lines and left Didier Drogba dreaming of wishy-washy Bayern centre-backs, it was time for a more lauded team-mate to put the record straight. Steven Gerrard may have been short-listed for the top award but he was the first to acknowledge: "He was fantastic.

Again. Carra's won our player of the year award hands down already."

Watching this imperious display, Gerrard reflected how well off England are for "quality" central defenders like Terry, Rio Ferdinand (who did make the PFA selection), Sol Campbell and Ledley King. It is thus possible that Carragher is fifth on Sven-Goran Eriksson's list yet Gerrard insisted: "I'd put him on a par with any of the rest of them".

Carragher remains a menace to Chelsea next week, not just because of the quality of his defending but because of his totemic value. He is the Bootle boy made good, the downto-earth hero who wouldn't dream about the leaving of Liverpool even when a more lauded local lad like Gerrard would. Stevie G may be captain but you sense Carragher is now the heartbeat.

Asked to pay tribute to his man of the match, manager Rafael Benitez was careful to avoid doing so, faithful to his belief that you should never single out a lone wolf when you hunt in a pack. Yet, like Jose Mourinho, he has quickly recognised the importance to the club's health of having a couple of local heroes to rally around.

On a night when Frank Lampard looked a mite weary, Terry was as tirelessly splendid as ever in a match which showcased an excellence in defensive organisation and execution which we have rarely witnessed from English clubs in recent years and which has to be a tribute to two masterful overseas coaches. …

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