UEFA Champions League: April 9, 2008

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Manchester United and Barcelona will face off in the Champions League semi-finals after both teams won their quarterfinal matches. Both sides came into their second legs having won their away legs, Barcelona having defeated Schalke 04 1-0 in Germany, and United coming out of Italy with a 2-0 decision.


Catalan giants Barcelona defeated Schalke 04 by a scored of 1-0 for the second consecutive game to secure their spot in the Champions League semi-finals. Both sides fielded full strength sides with Henry, Krcik and Eto'o in attack for Barca, and Altintop and Kuranyi as the Schalke strikers.

The home side could have gone ahead early as Krikic received the ball from Eto'o, but the youngster mis-controlled and after a series of rebounds the balled was volleyed over by Xavi. Schalke pressed to tie the series on aggregate and Gerald Asamoah drove a shot just wide before Halil Altintop's effort was saved by Victor Valdes. Xavi had the next chance for Barca put his low shot was saved well by Manuel Neuer. Kuranyi should have scored the opener in the 21st but blazed his point blank shot wide. Barca went ahead in the 43rd minute on a bizarre goal from Yaya Toure. Toure released Krkic on the right, and his cross was headed high by Marcelo Bordon in defense. The looping ball had to be headed off the line by Mladen Krstajic but it fell to Toure, who scuffed his shot past Neuer. Barcelona had several chances to double their lead from Henry, Iniesta, and substitute Giovani Dos Santos, but none could solve Neuer. Schalke pushed but couldn't produce anything too threatening and Bercelona held on until the final whistle.

Coming into the match with a two goal aggregate advantage, Sir Alex Ferguson opted to play a side devoid of several big names, leaving Rooney, Ronaldo, Scholes and Neville all on the bench. Meanwhile Roma were again without talisman captain Francesco Totti, and Vucinic was paired with Mancini in his stead.

United started strongly, looking to put the tie out of reach. Chances from Park and Tevez were sent wide before Roma keeper Doni was forced to make two good saves. The first was from Hargreaves as he was sent in all alone by Giggs, but Doni saved with his feet. Positions were then reversed as Giggs latched onto a cross by Hargreaves, but Doni again did well as he sprinted across his goal-line and made the save. Just as United was getting closer, Roma's Mancini won a penalty as he was adjudged to be brought down by Brown, however replays showed the striker performed a blatant dive. Daniele De Rossi, who scored from the spot in Serie A on the weekend, stepped up and blazed the ball over the net, coming nowhere close to the goal. Roma then started to press, and had several good chances including a header from Juan and a shot by Mancini, but the Italians were unable to break down the United defence or Edwin van der Sar.

It was Roma who came out strongly in the second half with a couple early chances. Vucinic took a long range shot which van der Sar was unable to gather, but as Cassetti pushed to latch onto the spilled ball van der Sar finally gathered and wiped out the danger. Roma's next chance came from Taddei, but his shot was blocked by a charging Mikael Silvestre. United booked their place in the semi-finals in the 69th minute as Tevez supplied the ball to Hargreaves on the counter-attack, and the Argentine sprinted into the area and dove to head the return cross past Doni. United nearly doubled their lead through Park as he was sent clear on goal but Doni charged out and the South-Koreans effort ballooned over onto the top netting. The final whistle blew and United celebrated their semi-final berth, as they will now travel to the Camp Nou to take on Barcelona.

Semi-finals are to be played April 23rd and 30th