/ 10 April 2008

Man United, Barca set up Champions League clash

Manchester United completed a 3-0 aggregate win over AS Roma on Wednesday to join Liverpool and Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals as the three English teams repeated last season’s success.

United will be joined by 2006 winners Barcelona, who beat German side Schalke 04 by a single goal at home to secure a 2-0 aggregate victory after Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure scored shortly before half-time.

Liverpool face Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals for the third time in four seasons after beating them in 2005 and last year while United, who lost last term to eventual winners AC Milan, play Barcelona.

United manager Alex Ferguson was looking forward to his team’s first competitive visit to the Nou Camp since their 1999 Champions League triumph there when they beat Bayern Munich 2-1 thanks to two stoppage-time goals.

”Barcelona are a fantastic club and it is a marvellous stadium with great memories for us,” Ferguson told a news conference.

”We can’t go there and be negative, we have to go there and be positive and if we do that we have a good chance.

”You have opportunities in life when you have got something really special in your club and I think we’ve got something special in this team.”

A Carlos Tevez goal after 70 minutes gave United a 1-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday as the English champions maintained their record of never losing a knockout tie in Europe after winning the away leg first.

They did so for the 14th time after weathering some nervy first-half moments, including a penalty that Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi blazed over the bar on the half hour following Wes Brown’s challenge on Mancini.

It was United’s third successive home win over Roma, following last year’s 7-1 thrashing at the same stage of the competition and this season’s 1-0 victory in the group stage.

United never looked like repeating last year’s 8-3 aggregate drubbing of the Italian side but Tevez sealed their passage when he headed an Owen Hargreaves cross past Doni.

With several key players rested ahead of their crunch Premier League clash with Arsenal on Sunday, United looked uncomfortable for long spells before the Argentinean calmed their nerves with his fourth Champions League goal.

Furious start

At the Nou Camp, a simple finish from Toure booked Barcelona’s berth in the last four after a furious start in which Schalke had 10 shots in the opening 22 minutes.

Both goalkeepers made several good saves before Toure scored from close range, scrambling in a deflected cross by 17-year-old Bojan Krkic that fell kindly to him after it was cleared off the line.

Barca, under pressure due to their recent poor domestic form, looked to be in for a difficult night as Schalke launched an early onslaught.

But the German side ran out of steam after conceding the goal and Barcelona held on comfortably in the second half to the relief of manager Frank Rijkaard.

Like Ferguson, Rijkaard was also relishing the clash that will renew old rivalries. United beat Barcelona 2-1 to win the now defunct Cup Winners Cup in 1991 and the teams twice drew 3-3 in the Champions League eight years later.

”I think we have got to get ready for two games against a team that is in top form and play very good football,” Rijkaard told a news conference.

”I am delighted to have the chance of playing against them. The level in the Champions League semifinals is very high and anything can happen, so I’m not prepared to say who are the favourites,” he said. — Reuters