Cole gives Blues the edgeJoe Cole scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea emerged from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with a 1-0 advantage over Liverpool to take to Anfield.
After generating enough chances to put the tie beyond doubt, particularly in a first-half they comfortably dominated, Jose Mourinho's side were put under sufficient pressure after the break for Liverpool to head home believing they can turn things around in front of their own supporters.
Cole's goal was a delight to watch and the kind of quick break that visiting sides to Stamford Bridge usually dream of. That Chelsea were the home side yet still found themselves attacking on the break was of little importance to those fans waving blue and white flags.
The opening period belonged to the Blues and Cole's goal was just reward for a display which had Liverpool pegged back deep in their own half for long spells. Chelsea could have been in front as early as the eighth minute when Ashley Cole's cross was headed down by Didier Drogba for Lampard to fire in a shot which brought an excellent save from Jose Reina.
It was a warning that Liverpool failed to heed and when John Arne Riise's pass was intercepted by Drogba three minutes later, Chelsea looked certain to open their account. But Drogba, with 31 goals to his credit this season, failed to find Joe Cole with his pass and another opportunity went begging.
Drogba's lack of bravery moments later allowed Liverpool to escape yet again when he paid far too much attention to the onrushing Reina than the flight of Joe Cole's cross and missed the ball completely. When Frank Lampard's free-kick flew inches wide of Reina's right-hand upright in the 22nd minute, Mourinho could have been forgiven for thinking it was not going to be his side's night.
But all that changed seven minutes later with a goal of such simplicity that it was difficult to believe Chelsea had scored it against a side with one of the meanest defences in England. t began with Ricardo Carvalho breaking-up a Liverpool attack and racing out of defence before slipping a sublime pass to Drogba. The striker, who gave Daniel Agger a torrid evening, turned him superbly before crossing for Cole to find the net from six yards.
Liverpool, not surprisingly, upped the pace of their own game in the second period and it almost paid dividends. But in Petr Cech, Chelsea have a guardian of the sticks who, like Cole, epitomises the spirit of defiance in the Stamford Bridge camp.
Cech, out for three months with a fractured skull sustained in a Barclays Premiership match against Reading last October and who still has to wear a protective helmet, flung himself to his left to keep out a goalbound volley from Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool were now in the ascendancy but despite replacing Craig Bellamy with the lanky frame of England striker Peter Crouch, they failed to produce another telling moment.
Instead it was Reina who kept Liverpool in the tie with a fantastic save to deny Lampard when the England midfielder volleyed the ball towards the top corner 10 minutes from time.
Drogba almost scored a second in stoppage-time but headed wide of the target from six yards. The tie remains delicately poised ahead of the return leg at Anfield and while Liverpool will feel they are capable of overcoming the deficit, Chelsea's remarkable spirit may prove to be unbreakable yet again.
Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Makelele, Joe Cole (Wright-Phillips 84), Mikel, Lampard, Shevchenko (Kalou 76), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Boulahrouz, Geremi, Bridge, Diarra.
Goals: Joe Cole 29.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso (Pennant 83), Mascherano, Zenden, Kuyt, Bellamy (Crouch 52).
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia, Gonzalez, Sissoko, Paletta.