United, Barca advance in Europe

Manchester United down rivals Chelsea as Barcelona cruise to victory in European Champions League.

    Ramires is given his marching orders as the game falls into the hands of United [GALLO/GETTY]

    Manchester United advanced into the semifinals of the European Champions League on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over 10-man Chelsea at Old Trafford.

    Goals from Mexican striker Javier Hernandez and South Korean international Park Ji-Sung either side of a lone Chelsea effort from Didier Drogba clinched a deserved victory for United and kept their dream of a treble alive.

    Barcelona look set to meet Spanish rivals Real Madrid in the semifinal after completing a 6-1 aggregate success at Shakhtar Donetsk. Lionel Messi netted the winner, putting the 2009 champions through to the semis for a fourth straight year.

    United will play either Schalke 04 or holders Inter Milan, who play each other on Wednesday.

    Mexican influence

    After Wayne Rooney's goal secured at 1-0 win last week, Javier Hernandez put United further ahead by latching onto Ryan Giggs' cross at the end of the first half.

    Chelsea's hopes of a comeback appeared to have been thwarted when Ramires was sent off with 20 minutes to go after a second foul on Nani earned another yellow card.

    And although Chelsea's substitute striker Didier Drogba pulled one back in the 77th minute, Park Ji-sung immediately scored for United from the restart, with Giggs again the provider.

    "Overall we were the better side, though, it was I thought as well a competitive game and played in a good spirit but also a great advert for the Premier League," said manager Alex Ferguson.

    "I think we've hit our form and the players are relishing the challenge on three fronts."

    While United also top the English Premier League and have an FA Cup semifinal with Manchester City on Saturday, Chelsea's hopes for a title this season are effectively gone with the London club 11 points adrift in the domestic title race.

    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once again saw his quest for a Champions League trophy stymied by United, who beat Chelsea in a penalty shootout in the 2008 final.

    The Russian had hoped Fernando Torres would help finally deliver the club's first European Cup title when he sanctioned the British-record signing of the Spanish striker in January.

    But the criticism of Torres is likely to grow louder as he once again failed to score his first goal for the club before being taken off at halftime in favour of Drogba.

    Messi affair

    World Player of the Year Lionel Messi scored for Barcelona when fullback Daniel Alves picked him out in the penalty area and he held off three defenders before slotting low past Andriy Pyatov.

    Real will join Barca in the last four if they hold on to their comfortable 4-0 advantage at English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in Wednesday's quarterfinal second leg at White Hart Lane.

    The temperature was hovering just above freezing at Shakhtar's imposing Donbass Arena as the home side set about what was always likely to be an impossible mission against Pep Guardiola's slick side.

    They enjoyed some decent early pressure and Valdes was forced into saves from Douglas Costa and Jadson before Barca began to get into their stride.

    Argentina forward Messi had two decent chances before he broke the deadlock just before halftime.

    Barca were always in control of the tie and Pyatov denied Ibrahim Afellay with a brilliant one-handed save in the 59th minute before Guardiola withdrew playmaker Xavi, centre back Gerard Pique and striker David Villa to give them a rest before Saturday's Real game.

    Barca were keen to avoid any further injury worries with this weekend bringing a key league clash against Real - whom they lead by eight points.

    Avoiding defeat in that game will leave Barca with a hand on the championship trophy - but Guardiola will be under even more pressure to ensure that Real are sent packing in the semis.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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