Manchester United reach Champions League final

April 30th, 2008 - 1:36 pm ICT by admin  

DPA
Manchester, April 30 (DPA) Manchester United reached their first Champions League final since 1999, with a tense 1-0 defeat of slick but inoffensive Barcelona. United won Tuesday night thanks to a 14th minute goal from English veteran Paul Scholes - and thanks to Barca’s powder-puff attack.

Frank Rijkaard’s troubled team - who have not scored for four games - dominated possession but, as in the goalless first leg in Barcelona, lacked bite in attack.

Indeed, United created more clear chances with less possession than the visitors.

In the Moscow final Sir Alex Ferguson’s team will face either Chelsea or Liverpool, who complete the other semi-final in London later Wednesday. That tie is finely poised at 1-1 after the first leg.

“This was a really great night,” said United veteran Ryan Giggs as he left the field, whilst goalscorer Scholes was full of praise for “our wonderful fans”.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes was the only Barca player to speak to the media at the end, saying that “we battled hard tonight, but didn’t really create much in attack”.

“Barcelona played with spirit and sacrifice,” said former Barca coach Radomir Antic on Radio Marca, “but a team that has not scored a single goal for a month can’t expect to achieve much.”

Ferguson revealed afterwards that Scholes, who missed the 1999 Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich, would be the first name on his teamsheet this time around.

“I’m so pleased for everyone,” he said.

Ferguson had to make do without Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney, both of whom failed a late fitness test.

Barca made an ambitious start but the crucial goal came in United’s very first attack, after just 14 minutes.

Barca right-back Gianluca Zambrotta won the ball off Cristiano Ronaldo, only to clumsily gift the ball to Scholes. The fiery midfielder controlled quickly then delighted Old Trafford with an unstoppable high drive with the outside of his right foot.

Lionel Messi and Deco both came close to levelling for Barca in the first half, with United content to soak up the pressure and play on the break.

Nani should have made it 2-0 just before the break but instead closed his eyes and headed wide.

Barca gradually ran out of steam in the second half and United came forward intelligently for the killer blow, which Carlos Tevez and Nani almost managed to apply.

Rijkaard’s team battled manfully towards the end but rarely looked like scoring, despite the valiant efforts of substitutes Thierry Henry and Bojan Krkic.

Barca now face a traumatic transition, with Rijkaard and several stars like Ronaldinho and Deco probably on the move.

United, in contrast, face the tantalising prospect of a Premier League and Champions double - though Chelsea and Liverpool are not going to make things easy for them.
DPA

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