[VIDEO] Chelsea 0-1 Man Utd: Rooney gives United edge as Blues fall short
Chelsea fell to a 1-0 home reversal in their Champions League quarter final first-leg against a Manchester United side inspired by an in-form Wayne Rooney. The visitors edged a close encounter at Stamford Bridge and take a slender goal lead back to Manchester ahead of the return-leg in two weeks time. The only goal of the game came in the 24th minute when Rooney rounded off a superb attack with a neat close range finish that Petr Cech could do little about. Whilst Chelsea had chances of their own throughout the game and had two controversial penalty claims turned down, the home team lacked the intensity and craft that would get them back into the game.
The statistics being thrown around prior to KO appeared to favour the home side: Man Utd had failed to win in West London since 2002 and since the two sides met in the 2008 Champions League final, Man Utd had won just twice in seven meetings- one of which was in this season’s Community Shield. They also fell to defeat the last time the clubs met here at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea coming out 2-1 winners. But the Red Devils came in good form and all eyes fell upon the man making this weeks headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Rooney received a two game suspension for his foul-mouthed outburst at a TV camera during his sides 4-2 comeback against West Ham on Saturday. The England ace led his team from two goals down, scoring a hat-trick in the process. Having seen the very good and the very bad, the cameras were eager to find out which Wayne would turn up for this show-piece.
On the blue half of proceedings, attention was drawn to Carlo Ancelotti’s team sheet to see who between Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba would be warming the bench. As it turned out, none of them were selected for that particular role and the Italian’s bold intentions appeared obvious by pairing the two in attack.
The game began in a typically English fashion. Plenty of hard work and effort on display with a few tasty tackles to boot, but very little in the way of inspiration. The only significant chance fell to Drogba who forced a fine save from Man Utd ‘keeper Edwin van der Sar. The ‘flying’ Dutchman was exceptional, and proved just how much Alex Ferguson will miss the veteran when he finally decides to hang up his gloves. The game needed a spark of class in order to ignite itself as a show-piece occasion and on the 24th minute the visitors lit up under the Stamford Bridge lights.
United were briefly forced to turn back in their advance towards Cech’s goal as Ashley Cole blocked their way on the right flank. Michael Carrick, refusing to retreat any further, spotted a back-door route in the way of Ryan Giggs who was allowed too much space on the left flank. With a swish of his right boot, Carrick found the Welsh winger who did excellently to race past Jose Boswingwa. Hernandez very cleverly left the pull back to Rooney who was unmarked in the area, and the England striker added his fourth goal in two games with a cool finish.
It was a perfectly crafted goal and Rooney’s clean celebration suggested a man who clearly wasn’t letting the prospect of missing out on an FA Cup semi-final worry him. Chelsea tried to respond immediately but for all the possession they were afforded in the visitors half, they struggled to make any ends; the forward passes into strikers feet did not come often enough, and when they did they were forced and easily swept up by a firm United rearguard.
The one positive Blues fans could take form the first half was the performance of record signing Torres who showed good movement across the line and controlled skill to beat Rafael on a number of occasions. In fact the Blues best chance of the half fell to the Spaniard who flicked on an in-swinging Drogba cross only to see the ball rebound off the post. Frank Lampard arrived to poke the ball goal wards but an excellent goal line clearance from Patrice Evra ensured the home side went in at the break second best.
Chelsea sought to find the equaliser when play resumed; Ramires failing to make a firm connection with Drogba’s telling cross, a header that glanced just wide. In a similar narrative to the first half, Chelsea enjoyed heavy spells of possession but failed to carve out the decisive opening. United, marshalled by the superb Rio Ferdinand defended resolutely and with the introduction of Nani for the injured Rafael midway through the half, they also looked menacing on the attack. It appeared a gamble to bring the winger on for a defender, but Ferguson looked to have played his cards just right when Hernandez was denied by Cech after a swift counter-attack.
The threat of United mattered little to Chelsea’s cause- they had to push for an equaliser. Nicolas Anelka was brought on for Drogba with 20 minutes to go, but it was the impressive Ramires who teed up Torres with his best chance of scoring for the first time in a Blue shirt. The Brazilian crossed deep to the back post where Torres, lurking, leapt superbly to meet the cross. His header was perfectly planted but the exceptional and apparently still agile van der Sar was equal to it, preventing a certain goal.
A Lampard free-kick came to no success and various half chances passed in between before the two penalty claims. With the game drawing to a desperate close, Evra appeared to hack down Ramires who burst through on goal. The full back came from behind and as Ramires poked the ball away from Evra, the referee deemed no foul had been committed. The next one was less black and white with a tumbling Torres booked for simulation. The Blues will feel aggrieved that at least one decision did not go their way, and so the next leg could have had an entirely different complexion had one of the spot kicks been converted. But it should not detract from the fact that Chelsea lacked the required vigour and clinical finishing at this stage of the competition. Ancelloti will be demanding much more from his team a fortnight from now in Manchester.
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