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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chelsea 0 - 1 Man Utd

Manchester United took a firm grip on the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea as Wayne Rooney's winner gave them a crucial first-leg advantage at Stamford Bridge.

Rooney rounded off a fine move involving Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs after 24 minutes to put United in the ascendancy as they battle with Chelsea to face Inter Milan or Schalke 04 in the semi-final.

After being hit with an Football Association charge for swearing into the camera after scoring in United's win at West Ham United on Saturday, Rooney was all smiles as he delivered the away goal his manager Sir Alex Ferguson had demanded ahead of the all-Premier League confrontation.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti paired Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres in attack - but it was another fruitless and frustrating night for the Spaniard as his goal drought goes on since his £50m British record transfer from Lverpool.

Drogba struck a post and Patrice Evra cleared off the line from Frank Lampard in first-half injury time, while Chelsea and their supporters were infuriated when two penalty claims were rejected by Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco in the dying seconds.

Ramires tumbled under challenge from Evra while Torres went down as he tangled with Antonio Valencia. Chelsea's demands went unanswered - and Torres saw insult added to his injury when he was booked for diving.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who had Rio Ferdinand available for the first time since February, was elated at the final whistle as all his pre-match demands were fulfilled in the fight to face Inter Milan or Schalke 04 in the last four.

And victory will have tasted sweet for Ferdinand after he was taunted by Chelsea's fans following Fabio Capello's decision to reinstate John Terry to the England captaincy in place of the Manchester United defender.

United were industrious and well-organised, with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar presenting a formidable barrier with a performance that once again suggested his decision to retire at the end of the season may be premature.

He was outstanding throughout and distinguished himself with one late save from a Torres header that demonstrated his enduring powers of athleticism.

Chelsea now face a huge task at Old Trafford to rescue the tie and keep their main hope of silverware alive this season, as well as easing pressure on Ancelotti.

Ancelotti had pinned much of his hopes on the pairing of Drogba and Torres, but they were kept at bay until a late flurry of first-half activity finally unsettled United's defence.

Torres made an energetic start and Drogba forced a fine fingertip save from Van der Sar with a rising drive from the angle as Chelsea attempted to apply early pressure.

It was United, however, who took the lead with a superbly constructed goal after 24 minutes as they delivered the away goal Ferguson had insisted upon in the build-up to the tie.

Carrick, whose range and accuracy of passing was a feature of United's play, found Giggs with a raking ball and when the veteran displayed superb touch and control to find Rooney, he scored with a low finish past Petr Cech.

Chelsea offered their increasingly frustrated supporters some hope seconds before half-time when United somehow survived a desperate scramble. Torres failed to apply a touch to Drogba's effort and when Lampard looked certain to score from the rebound Evra made a desperate, and decisive, block.

Drogba was trying manfully to spark life into Chelsea and he fashioned a chance for Ramires that the Brazilian, arriving at pace in the area, could only divert wide of the target.

United suffered a blow when the unlucky Rafael was hurt in a touchline collision with Drogba and, despite his efforts to play on, was stretchered off and replaced by Nani.

As United held firm, with an ever-present menace on the counter-attack, Ancelotti made a double change with 20 minutes left, replacing Yuri Zhirkov and Drogba with Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka.

Torres almost broke the barren spell he has endured at Chelsea moments after the change with a fine looping header from Ramires' cross that was clawed away to safety by Van der Sar as Chelsea looked to build momentum.

Van der Sar had been a model of composure when Chelsea did pierce United's defence and his handling was secure once more when Lampard's free-kick found a way through the defensive wall.

United had anxious moments as they survived two penalty appeals - but their satisfaction at their night's work was evident as they celebrated with their supporters in a corner of Stamford Bridge at the final whistle.

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