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Football

Bridge's late strike lifts Chelsea


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Bridge sidefooted the winner home with just three minutes left on the clock.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
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Champions League

LONDON, England -- England defender Wayne Bridge sent Chelsea into a Champions League semifinal with Monaco when his 87th minute goal earned a dramatic 2-1 win at Arsenal.

It handed Chelsea a 3-2 aggregate victory after 20-year-old Spanish striker Jose Antonio Reyes had given Arsenal the lead on the stroke of halftime.

It was the first goal Chelsea had conceded in six European away games this season but they hit back six minutes after the restart through Frank Lampard.

Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann failed to hold a swerving Claude Makelele shot and Lampard swept in the rebound.

Arsenal defender Ashley Cole cleared an Eidur Gudjohnsen shot off the line five minutes from time.

But two minutes later the Icelander rolled the ball into the path of fullback Bridge who drove in the winner.

"When they cleared that shot off the line I thought it wasn't going to be our day," Bridge told ITV.

"But we battled, matched them for effort. It was a great ball from Eidur and I just sidefooted it into the corner."

Manager Claudio Ranieri, whose future with the club remains uncertain despite continued success on the pitch, said: "Fantastic, the players delivered.

"It was important to stay calm. I said 'don't worry, we can score' and the second half was a great performance."

Arsenal's goal came when Lauren crossed deep from the right and Henry nodded the ball back across the box and Reyes fired low through the legs of Marco Ambrosio.

Ranieri's team, assembled at a cost of more than 110 million pounds by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich last summer, ended a run of 17 matches in which they had failed to beat their London rivals.

Friends reunited

The reward is a two-leg last-four clash against Monaco who are managed by the old Stamford Bridge favorite Didier Deschamps.

At the same time they sent Arsenal, as recently as Saturday morning were chasing a treble of Champions League, English league and FA Cup, into despair.

Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United in the semifinals on Saturday and after failing yet again to reach the last four of the Champions League, only now have the English title to aim for.

But with Chelsea fast closing on their heels in that competition too, it could be Ranieri's men who end up with a glorious double.

Chelsea came from behind to win -- thanks largely to an inspired halftime substitution by Ranieri, whose tinkering with the Chelsea formation paid off handsomely.

He replaced the ineffective Scott Parker in the middle with Jesper Gronkjaer wide on the right, and the Dane proved to be the crucial difference between the sides, unsettling Arsenal's defense with a series of whipped-in crosses and flicks.

Monaco, meanwhile, hit back to draw 5-5 with Real Madrid on aggregate after a 3-1 win on the night -- and that put them through on away goals.


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