Rooney gives United advantage

United score crucial away goal in Champions League first leg as Barca look virtually assured of semifinal spot.

    Barcelona eased to victory in Spain and look set to meet rivals Real in a mouth-watering semifinal [AFP]

    Wayne Rooney scored the only goal to give Manchester United a 1-0 win at Chelsea to tip the balance of the European Champions League quarterfinal after an impressive first leg victory on Wednesday.

    Chelsea were looking to gain revenge for a penalty shootout defeat to United in the 2008 final in Moscow, but Rooney's goal has put Alex Ferguson's side in the driving seat.

    It was a different story at the Nou Camp as Barcelona virtually booked a place in the semifinals with a 5-1 demolition of Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk.

    Goals by Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernandez put the Spanish giants on the brink of qualification, with Yaroslav Ratkitskiy scoring a consolation goal for Shakhtar.

    Advantage United

    The victory was United's first over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 2002 and the defeat has left Chelsea with a daunting task if they are to achieve their dream of winning the only piece of silverware that has eluded them since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's 2003 takeover of the club.

    Only twice before in the Champions League knockout rounds has a team recovered from losing a first leg match at home to advance to the next round.

    The match ended in controversy as Chelsea were denied a clear penalty after Patrice Evra brought down Ramires in the area in injury time.

    A scrappy first half saw both sides struggle to establish dominance early on, with star signing Fernando Torres testing United keeper Edwin van der Sar with a low shot after only seven minutes.

    Results & fixtures

    Tuesday April 5

     Inter Milan 2-5 Schalke 04
     Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham

    Wednesday April 6

     Barcelona 5-1 Shakhtar
     Chelsea 0-1 Man Utd

    Chelsea's early pressure almost resulted in a goal on 19 minutes when clever play released Didier Drogba inside the penalty area.

    The Ivorian striker's shot was firm but van der Sar was equal to the challenge, tipping over for a corner.

    United meanwhile appeared happy to soak up the pressure and look for openings on the break, and on 24 minutes they took the lead with their first meaningful foray into Chelsea territory.

    Michael Carrick swung a pass out to the right flank and Ryan Giggs roared up on the left flank to beat Jose Bosingwa on the outside before cutting back to Rooney, whose low shot went in off the post.

    As half-time neared Chelsea began to trouble United, and should have levelled when a cross from Drogba came back off the post and fell to Frank Lampard, whose close-range shot was cleared off the line by Evra.

    Chelsea thought they had equalised on 74 minutes when Torres guided a fine header to the back post but van der Sar pulled off a wonderful save to preserve United's lead.

    As injury time wound down Chelsea had loud appeals for a penalty waved away after Evra brought down Ramires, but referee Undiano was unimpressed.

    To add insult to injury, Torres was then booked for diving after going over too easily in the penalty area.

    In control

    In Spain, Iniesta punished a defensive error by the Ukrainian side in the second minute when he picked up a loose ball and burst through to finish low inside the near post.

    Brazil fullback Daniel Alves raced through unmarked to Iniesta's curled pass to double the home side's lead in the 34th minute and centre half Gerard Pique made it 3-0 eight minutes after half-time with a deflected shot from a corner.

    Yaroslav Rakitskiy briefly checked Barca's domination in the 59th minute when he flicked the ball past Victor Valdes but Seydou Keita smashed the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area a minute later.

    Xavi tapped in the fifth after 86 minutes to make what had looked a potentially tricky second leg in Donetsk appear a formality as a semifinal between 2009 champions Barca and arch rivals Real Madrid looms.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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