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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Barca, United reach semis

AP

London — Barcelona and Manchester United moved a step closer to a rematch of the 2009 Champions League final Tuesday as both clubs earned victories to extend their first-leg advantage and reach the semis.

Lionel Messi scored his club-record 48th goal of the season in the 43rd minute to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk and secure a comfortable 6-1 aggregate victory that had never looked in doubt.

There was more drama at Old Trafford, where Park Ji Sung secured a 2-1 win for United over 10-man Chelsea, scoring the winner less than a minute after second-half substitute Didier Drogba had equalized for the London club in the 77th. Javier Hernandez scored the opener in the 43rd as United advanced 3-1 on aggregate.

"I think we played very, very well against a very, very good team," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Chelsea played a big part in that game today. I thought we were the better team on the night. In a team game we had some fantastic performances, Park, Chicharito (Hernandez), all over, no one let us down."

Barcelona is now looking at a likely semifinal against archrival Real Madrid, which held a 4-0 edge over Tottenham going into the second leg of their quarterfinal on Wednesday. United will face the winner of Schalke and defending champion Inter Milan, with the German club having won the first leg 5-2 in Italy.

Barcelona, which beat United 2-0 in the final two years ago, only needed to avoid an unlikely collapse in Ukraine following its 5-1 rout in the first leg. But coach Pep Guardiola still opted against giving stars like Messi, Xavi Hernandez and David Villa a rest despite upcoming games against Madrid in both the league and Copa del Rey final.

While Shakthar came out attacking from the start, Barcelona soaked up the pressure and repeatedly threatened on counter attacks. Messi provided the breakthrough in the 43rd when he received a pass from Dani Alves before holding off a defender in the box and slotting the ball past Pyatov for his ninth goal in 10 matches in the competition this season.

It was Shakhtar's first home loss in European play in more than two years.

"I've been a Shakhtar fan for the last three years," Guardiola said. "The team is getting stronger and I hope we will not meet them next season."

Ryan Giggs was the creator behind both of United's goals, as the host reached the Champions League semifinals for the fourth time in five years.

"It was a tough game tonight," the 37-year-old Giggs said. "We scored a couple of great goals. My job in the center was made easier with Michael Carrick next to me, who had a fantastic two games. It's easier as you get older because you pick your moments."

Giggs played a one-two with John O'Shea on the right flank before breaking into the area and squaring the ball across the goalmouth for an onrushing Hernandez at the far post to tap into the roof of the net from close range.

Hernandez previously had a goal disallowed in the 25th as he was narrowly offside when he headed in a perfect cross from Wayne Rooney.

While Chelsea spent most of the first half on the attack, it was another miserable day for striker Fernando Torres, who was given the start by Carlo Ancelotti up front in a 4-3-3 formation with Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda on the wings.

But the Spaniard again showed the same ineffectiveness that has plagued his play since his $80 million transfer from Liverpool in January, and he was substituted in halftime for Didier Drogba.

"We had control of the game for the first 25 minutes but were not able to score," Ancelotti said. "At the end of the first half when they scored it was more difficult for us, we came back with 10 men but in the end it was not enough."

Chelsea's task was made even harder when Ramires picked up a second yellow card in the 70th for a tackle from behind on Nani, but Drogba restored some hope when he latched on to a long ball from Michael Essien and downed the ball with his chest as he ran into the area before beating Edwin van der Sar with hard low shot.

But Park responded in similar fashion on United's first attack after the restart. Giggs picked out the South Korean midfielder on the left side of the area, and Park controlled the ball with his chest before sending a hard show into the far side of the net.



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