United escape against Barcelona in Champions League semi-final

April 24th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by admin  

Barcelona, April 24 (DPA) English side Manchester United were relieved to escape with a 0-0 draw from Barcelona Wednesday in the first leg semi-final clash of the Champions League. Barcelona failed to translate their domination into goals as they lacked punch in their attack.

Nonetheless, the clearest chance fell to United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who squandered a third-minute penalty, blasting the ball into the Camp Nou crowd.

“It would have been a different game had the penalty gone in,” said United midfielder Michael Carrick, who was quick to point out that he wasn’t laying any blame at Ronaldo’s feet.

Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o said that: “This is not a bad result for us, because we have not conceded an away goal. We will go there to play our game, as we usually do.”

Barcelona president Joan Laporta was full of praise for the Camp Nou crowd, saying: “The crowd really got behind the team, even though our recent results have been rather disappointing.”

Laporta claimed that his side possesses more quality than United, but conceded that the visitors were a good team and played with a different style against the hosts.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard surprised most people with a 4-4-2 formation, with Deco in central midfield despite having been out injured for six weeks, and Andres Iniesta down the left.

United made an aggressive start and forced a corner after just two minutes. Barcelona defender Gabriel Milito, under pressure from Ronaldo, clumsily handled the ball and Swiss referee Massimo Bussaca was quick ton point to the spot.

Ronaldo had the perfect chance to put away a crucial early goal, but bizarrely put his spot-kick well wide of Victor Valdes’ left-hand post.

From then on Barcelona was in the driving seat, enjoying 64 per cent possession.

United are not accustomed to this kind of treatment in the English Premier League and with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez totally isolated in the attack, they looked distinctly uncomfortable.

The stage was set for Barcelona to take United apart, but one thing was missing for the hosts - the final pass. Time and again their neat approach work broke down on the edge of the area, to the frustration of a crowd that has not seen them score at home for three games now.

United keeper Edwin van der Sar had to be on his toes in the second half, to keep out long shots from Xavi Hernandez and Thierry Henry.

United are now slight favourites to reach the final, but they have often slipped up at home in the Champions League, against opponents who are not intimidated by Old Trafford and who know how to take the ball off them.

Barcelona fans will be hoping that their team shows the same ambition in Manchester as in the Camp Nou - but with more precision and firepower in attack.

Meanwhile, in the other semi-final Tuesday night, a fourth minute injury-time own goal by John Arne Riise gave Chelsea a slight edge as they drew 1-1 with Liverpool.

Dirk Kuyt had put Liverpool ahead two minutes before half-time, and Liverpool then did enough to have won the game more comfortably, only for Riise to head a Salomon Kalou cross into his own net.

The return legs are on April 29 and 30.

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