Champions League - United end Chelsea quest

Tue, 12 Apr 21:39:00 2011

Manchester United continued their hunt for the treble after a 2-1 victory over 10-man Chelsea at Old Trafford gave them a 3-1 Champions League quarter-final aggregate win.

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Goals from Javier Hernandez and Ji-sung Park sandwiched a Didier Drogba strike as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side kept their trophy hunt on track, seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and with an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at the weekend.

The result also means that billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has to wait at least another year in his quest to win the one major title that has eluded him since he bought the West London club in 2003.

With United leading 1-0 from Wayne Rooney’s first-leg goal, they took control of the tie just before half-time as Mexico striker Hernandez bagged his 18th goal of what is proving to be a dream debut season in England.

Chelsea went down to 10 men when Ramires received a second booking but Drogba, a half-time substitute for the again ineffectual Fernando Torres, scored a trademark goal on the turn to give his side hope.

But within seconds United restored their advantage as Chelsea went to sleep from the kick-off, the evergreen Ryan Giggs - who set up the opener - picking out Park who controlled and finished past Petr Cech to put the comeback to bed.

United will face either Schalke or Internazionale in their fourth European semi-final in five years, with the German side the more likely opponent after a 5-2 win in Milan put them in the driving seat ahead of Wednesday’s second leg.

Champions League : Manches

Chelsea, meanwhile, look set to finish a fractured season empty-handed: they are 11 points United in the Premier League with seven games left, and out of European and domestic cup competitions.

Before the match Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti stated his belief that the team which controlled possession would win the game, and his side set about that aspect of their game with intent as they kept the ball better than United.

But they were unable to convert their possession as Nicolas Anelka fired wide and Frank Lampard side-footed straight at Edwin van der Sar when both should have scored.

United, meanwhile, were happy to use the break as they carved the visitors apart with relative frequency: Giggs was denied by a Ramires block after great wingplay from Wayne Rooney while Hernandez was fractionally offside as he put a diving header past Cech, again thanks to a superb run and cross from Rooney.

And, after a bitty spell where several players were yellow-carded by a fussy Portuguese referee, it was from wide where United took the lead on the night, doubling the advantage overall as Chelsea failed to clear their lines from a free-kick.

Just before half-time, the ball dropped to the 37-year-old Giggs on the right wing: he exchanged slick passes with John O’Shea before drilling a wicked low cross into the six-yard box that Hernandez slid in to ram into the roof of the net.

Torres had done little to nothing in the opening 45 minutes and Ancelotti had enough, taking the goal-shy £50 million striker off for Drogba, who cut an irritable figure on the sidelines before his introduction.

Drogba immediately gave the Blues more of a focal point up front, attacking Branislav Ivanovic’s cross at the near post, creating a chance all by himself with a stunning flick and half volley wide from 30 yards and almost creating a goal for Salomon Kalou with a run and cross from the right.

He also forced Van der Sar into a smart low save with an audacious free-kick, before outmuscling Patrice Evra and standing up an inviting cross - it was a one-man show as Torres’s transfer fee continued to hang heavy over his club.

But the promise of a comeback took a huge blow when, seconds after Giggs showed a human streak by fluffing a free header after more great work out wide from Rooney, Ramires clattered into the back of Nani to earn a second yellow card.

That was on 70 minutes and it seemed to have put the final nail in Chelsea’s coffin - Drogba had other ideas though as he took a Michael Essien pass on the chest, spun into space and rifled the finish past Van der Sar.

It was a cracking goal but its memory was immediately snuffed out as Rooney bustled forward, knocking it back to Giggs who swept a delicious ball to the onrushing Park, who killed it dead and slipped a cool shot across Cech and inside the far post.

It knocked the stuffing out of Chelsea and, with only 13 minutes left, United controlled the latter stages as they gave themselves a brilliant chance of reaching a third Champions League final in four seasons.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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