LONDON - Wayne Rooney let his feet do
the talking with a superb first-half goal to give Manchester
United a 1-0 first leg win at Chelsea and tip the balance of the
Champions League quarter-final their way on Wednesday.
Rooney, facing an FA charge for swearing live on TV last
Saturday which could see him banned for two domestic matches,
steered in a sweetly-struck 24th minute goal off the post after
a flowing United build-up.
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United dominated the match for long periods with Rooney
providing much of their inspiration in midfield and attack to
leave Chelsea a huge task of saving the tie in the second leg at
Old Trafford next Tuesday.
"Wayne was in tremendous form," United boss Alex Ferguson
said in a televised interview. "He's given us a really great
opportunity to get to the semi-final.
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"(He was) excellent, absolutely superb. (His) work rate,
desire to play is marvellous. He got a lot of abuse tonight, he
got a lot of late tackles on him but he got up and played. It
shows the courage of the player. He takes great credit."
United defender Rio Ferdinand added: "He's a top quality
player. Today, he showed touches of brilliance, some great
touches, awareness and a great finish. He was buzzing around all
over the pitch today and it was good to see."
With their Premier League title probably heading to Old
Trafford and the European Cup their only realistic chance of a
trophy this season, Chelsea were flat for long periods, and came
closest to a goal when Frank Lampard saw his shot cleared off
the line just before halftime by Patrice Evra.
They also had a strong claim for a late penalty denied.
United, who had not won at Stamford Bridge for 10 matches
since 2002 but beat Chelsea to win the Champions League in the
2008 final on penalties, dominated with Rooney at the heart of
much of their invention with some crisp passes and link-up play.
With Rio Ferdinand reinforcing United's defence after 11
matches out with a calf injury, United looked composed at the
back and inspired down the wings in attack and at one point laid
siege to Chelsea's goal with the home defence just about
managing to keep United at bay.
Although United deserved to go in ahead at the break,
Chelsea almost equalised just before the interval.
Drogba played in a ball from the left to Fernando Torres,
who, failing to get the touch that could have brought him his
first goal for the club, saw the ball bounce back off Edwin Van
der Sar's far post to Lampard.
The England midfielder, playing his 500th match for Chelsea,
followed up the rebound only to see his effort cleared off the
line by Evra.
The goal came after Michael Carrick found Ryan Giggs wide on
the left before the 37-year-old found Rooney with his pass which
the combative striker neatly steered home of the post.
Chelsea looked more dangerous as the second half progressed,
and put United under more pressure in the closing stages.
Their pressure appeared to have paid off in stoppage time
when they had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down by
Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco after Evra appeared to
bring down Ramires.
"Maybe it should have been a penalty but... it was about
the time we got the benefit (of the doubt) here," said Rio
Moments later Torres's miserable night ended with a booking
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