Manchester United pushed and heaved their way past a largely lackluster Chelsea side tonight, to book their position in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, thanks to goals from Javier Hernandez and Ji-Sung Park, and impressive performances from Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs.
Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti made the strange decision to start with Nicholas Anelka and Fernando Torres, leaving Didier Drogba on the bench. Neither player influenced the first half in the way Ancelotti would have hoped.
The two sides played a mostly uninspired first-half, until Ryan Giggs linked up with John O’Shea, and played a sumptuous ball across the box that Hernandez couldn’t help but direct into the goal. He had earlier been correctly ruled offside for a header that had flown into the net from a Wayne Rooney cross, so Chelsea had been warned of the movement and awareness of the little Mexican star.
In the second half, Didier Drogba replaced Fernando Torres and Saloman Kalou was bought on in place of Nicholas Anelka. The two Ivorian hitmen had an immediate effect, causing Van der Sar to make some saves – something barely required of him in the first.
A Ramires sending off looked to be the end of Chelsea’s night, the Brazilian sliding through the back of Nani to pick up a needless second yellow. But Drogba was put through by an expert ball from Michael Essien, his turn off the chest control was sumptuous, and his finish was driven into the corner, past a helpless Van der Sar. Finally Chelsea had a lifeline.
Unfortunately Chelsea’s defenders were distracted by their teams new found optimism, and allowed Manchester United’s Korean winger Ji-Sung Park to walk into the box unmarked. The ageless Giggs picked him out, and the aggregate score was brought back to 3-1.
While United fans will celebrate, realists amongst them will note with pessimism the ease with which Barcelona dispatched of Schalke, and Real Madrid’s 4-0 crushing off Tottenham Hotspurs. Even their likely next round opposition, Schalke, were able to beat last years winners 5-2 in the San Siro.
For more analysis of the game, please read below.