Blues flame burns out
United inflict more European misery on Chelsea; Barcelona make fourth successive semifinal.sports Updated: Apr 14, 2011 01:01 IST
Manchester United inflicted more Champions League misery on Chelsea with a 2-1 win that put them in the semifinals and then twisted the knife when Alex Ferguson said he might not have fielded the right team.
Mexican striker Javier Hernandez opened the scoring just before halftime and Park Ji-sung added a second just moments after Didier Drogba had given Chelsea hope with an equaliser but United ran out 3-1 winners on aggregate.
Lionel Messi is on course to pass the half century mark for goals scored in a season after leading Barcelona into the Champions League semifinals.
The Argentine forward netted the only goal as Barca survived a tricky night away to Shakhtar Donetsk, giving his side a 6-1 aggregate victory, and took his tally for the season to 48 goals from 46 games in all competitions so far this season.
Ferguson's side, who beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final and had carved out a 1-0 lead from the first leg, absorbed plenty of pressure during a balanced game in which the Londoners had Ramires sent off with 20 minutes left.
The victory put United into their fourth semi in five years and left big question marks hanging over Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti's future now that his flagging team's only realistic chance of silverware has evaporated.
United, chasing a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, will next face Schalke 04 or Inter Milan.
Ferguson singled out "incredible" old-timer Ryan Giggs for an outstanding game in the central midfield from where he set up Hernandez's 43rd-minute opener while adding that the Mexican had almost not started as he had toyed with a different lineup. "We had two teams picked tonight and hopefully I picked the right one, I'm not sure I did pick the right one," Ferguson said.
"The other option is to play Park in that position and Rooney up top, leaving Chicha (Hernandez) out. That's where you get luck, Chicharito scores the first goal."
While the taunts from United fans to Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti of "You're getting sacked in the morning," were possibly wide of the mark, the Italian is under pressure now his side's last realistic chance of silverware has vanished.
Although Chelsea started brightly their cause was not helped by striker Fernando Torres' apparent lack of confidence, which seems to be growing with every match that goes by without him breaking his scoring duck at the club.
Ancelotti said he had "maybe" made a mistake in starting Torres, whom he replaced with Drogba for the second half with the Ivorian immediately sharpening things up.
Torres left the field to loud jibes of "What a waste of money" as United fans revelled in his failure to score since his £50 million British record transfer in January from Liverpool.
It was United who got the ball in the net first in the 26th minute with Hernandez's diving header from a Rooney cross only for the linesman to flag for offside even if it took some time for the jubilant home fans to realise it.
That frustration was forgotten two minutes before the break when John O'Shea sent a reverse pass to Giggs and the evergreen Welshman slid a pinpoint ball across the area where the lurking Hernandez, ruled just onside, crashed it into the roof of the net from virtually under the crossbar.
It was Hernandez's 18th goal of the season for United and came at the worst possible time for Chelsea.
When Ramires was sent off for fouling Nani after 70 minutes Chelsea's hopes looked shot but a fired-up Drogba had other ideas when he controlled a ball with his chest and unleashed a right-footed shot under Edwin Van der Sar in the 77th.
Any hope Chelsea had of United buckling were snuffed out immediately as Park netted 21 seconds later.
Messi nears mark
Messi set a new club record, passing the 47 scored in 51 games by Brazilian Ronaldo during Barca's 1996-97 campaign under Bobby Robson.
The World Player of the Year is the Champions League's leading marksman so far with nine goals, a title he is on course to claim for a third year in a row, has notched 29 in La Liga, seven in the King's Cup and three in the Spanish Super Cup.
He has the chance to add to his tally as Barca still have 10 matches left to play this season, or 11 if they make it to the Champions League final in London next month.
It is not only the quantity of goals but the importance of his interventions for the squad as a whole that counts.
In a nervous league encounter against lowly Almeria on Saturday he levelled from the penalty spot minutes after the visitors had stunned the Nou Camp with a shock breakaway goal.