Wayne Rooney gave Manchester United a crucial 1-0 victory over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.Rooney scored in the 24th minute in West London in a fiery and entertaining encounter on Wednesday in which six players were booked.
The match ended in controversy when Ramires was brought down in the area by Patrice Evra in the last minute, but referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco waved away Chelsea’s penalty claims.
Chelsea were furious about that decision but United will feel they were worthy of victory following a textbook performance against the old rivals.
United’s stalwarts were the key to the victory, with Edwin van der Sar producing several fine saves, Ryan Giggs outstanding in midfield and Rio Ferdinand superb on his return from injury.
But it was Rooney who won the headlines with an all-action display, especially in the first half when he was almost unplayable.
He won the match with a slide-rule side-footed finish from an excellent Giggs cut-back and Chelsea – despite felling him with several thunderous tackles – couldn’t handle the United number 10.
The home side did their best to get in the match, with Didier Drogba forcing van der Sar into an excellent save early on.
And they almost equalised on the stroke of half-time when Drogba set up Fernando Torres for a shot that hit the post before Frank Lampard’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra.
After the break United defended superbly to keep out Carlo Ancelotti’s men, van der Sar saving twice from Lampard and once from Ivanovic and Ramires.
But it was a stroke of luck that clinched a crucial advantage for the visitors going into the second leg at Old Trafford on April 12.
With 90 minutes on the clock Evra clearly brought down Ramires with a late high challenge, but got away with it.
Then all hell broke loose as Torres was booked for diving under challenge from Valencia, adding to Chelsea’s feeling of injustice.
But the Blues know they will have to do better at Old Trafford to avoid crashing out of the Champions League this season.