Manchester United, Barcelona Take Champions League Soccer Leads

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United
Wayne Rooney of Manchester United in action. Photographer: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Manchester United beat Chelsea 1-0 in the opening game of their Champions League soccer quarterfinal, while bookmakers’ favorite Barcelona routed Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1.

Wayne Rooney scored the only goal last night as three-time champion United won the matchup of English Premier League rivals at Stamford Bridge in London. The return match in the two-game series will be in Manchester on April 12.

“It’s still in the balance,” United’s Rio Ferdinand told U.K. broadcaster ITV. “It’s a good result for us but it’s nowhere near over. We need to go to Old Trafford, defend well, stay on our feet and if we don’t concede we go through.”

Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernandez scored against Shakhtar Donetsk to virtually assure three-time champion Barcelona of a semifinal place.

“We played really, really well and 5-1 is a great score to go to Ukraine,” Pique told Sky Sports.

United didn’t concede a goal for the seventh time in nine Champions League games this season in winning at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2002.

“We left ourselves a mountain to climb in Manchester, but we have to do it,” Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech told ITV. “They had their first chance and scored and we had some but we didn’t score, and that’s the difference.”

United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made early saves against Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba before Rooney, who’s facing a suspension from England’s Football Association for swearing into a television camera during a league match last weekend, scored in the 24th minute.

Rooney Scores

Ryan Giggs took Michael Carrick’s cross-field pass on the left and laid off the ball for Rooney to sidefoot into the net.

“He was important on the counterattack and he was in tremendous form,” United manager Alex Ferguson said of Rooney. “He’s given us a great chance of reaching the semi.”

Chelsea came close just before halftime as Torres directed a Drogba pass off the post and Frank Lampard’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra.

The Blues had more chances in the second half. Ramires sent a header wide and Drogba’s overhead kick went past the far post in the 57th minute.

Cech knocked away a cross from Nani that was heading for Javier Hernandez and Van der Sar saved a Torres header with one hand with 16 minutes left. Nicolas Anelka’s glancing header went wide and Van der Sar stopped Lampard’s free kick and Branislav Ivanovic’s low effort.

Penalty Claim Denied

In stoppage time at the end of the game, referee Alberto Mallenco waved play on as Chelsea players appealed for a penalty kick after Ramires went down under a challenge by Evra.

“Everybody saw what happened, you can see it clearly on the telly,” Cech said. “But the most important person didn’t see it.”

At the Camp Nou, Iniesta opened the scoring after two minutes and Alves added a second goal in the 34th minute for Barcelona. Pique scored off a corner kick eight minutes into the second half before Yaroslav Rakitskiy scored for Shakhtar in the 60th minute.

Barcelona answered a minute later when Keita slammed a shot into the top corner after taking a pass from Lionel Messi. Luiz Adriano hit the post for Shakhtar in the 81st minute and Xavi closed out the scoring with four minutes remaining.

Shakhtar hosts the second leg on April 12. Should Barcelona advance, it will play archrival Real Madrid in the semifinals. Real beat Tottenham 4-0 two days ago, while Schalke won 5-2 at defending champion Inter Milan in the other quarterfinal opener.

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