Barcelona let Manchester United off the hook in one-sided first leg

(dpa) - Manchester United were relieved to escape with a 0-0 draw from Barcelona on Wednesday, after a one-sided Champions League semi-final first leg clash.
Barca failed to translate their domination into goals, and may live to regret their lack of punch in attack.
Nonetheless, the clearest chance fell to United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who surprisingly blasted a third-minute penalty into the Camp Nou crowd.
"It would have been a different game had the penalty gone in," said United midfielder Michael Carrick, who was quick to point out that he wasn't laying any blame at Ronaldo's feet.
Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o said that "this is not a bad result for us, because we have not conceded an away goal."
The Cameroon striker vowed that "we will go there to play our game, as we usually do."
Barca president Joan Laporta cheekily claimed that the penalty had not gone in "because today is Saint George's Day (the patron saint of Catalonia) and he was protecting us."
He was full of praise for the Camp Nou crowd, who "really got behind the team, even though our recent results have been rather disappointing."
Laporta claimed that "we have more quality than them", though he did concede that United were "a good team...though with a different style."
He finished by saying that "Old Trafford is often called the "Theatre of Dreams". Let's see if we can go there and make our dream come true."
Barca coach Frank Rijkaard surprised most people with a 4-4-2 formation, with Deco in central midfield despite having been out injured for six weeks, and with Andres Iniesta down the left.
United made an aggressive start and forced a corner after just two minutes. Barca defender Gabriel Milito, under pressure from Ronaldo, clumsily handled - and Swiss referee Massimo Bussaca pointed to the spot.
Ronaldo had the perfect chance to put away a crucial early goal, but bizarrely put his spot-kick well wide of Victor Valdes' left-hand post.
From then on Barca were in the driving seat, enjoying 64 per cent possession against opponents who wanted the ball - but could hardly get hold of it.
United are not accustomed to this kind of treatment in the Premier League and - with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez totally isolated in attack - looked distinctly uncomfortable.
The stage was set for Barca to take United apart. Only one thing was missing for the hosts - the final pass.
Time and again their neat approach work broke down on the edge of the area, to the frustration of a crowd that has not seen them score at home for three games now.
United keeper Edwin van der Sar had to be on his toes in the second half, to keep out long shots from Xavi Hernandez and Thierry Henry.
Barca tired towards the end, understandably so after having taken the game to United in such an ambitious manner and the game ended in stalemate.
United are now slight favourites to reach the final, but they have often slipped up at home in the Champions League, against opponents who are not intimidated by Old Trafford and who know how to take the ball off them.
Barca fans will be hoping that their team shows the same ambition in Manchester as in the Camp Nou - but with more precision and firepower in attack.
Meanwhile, in Tuesday's semi-final a fourth minute injury-time own goal by John Arne Riise gave Chelsea a slight edge as they drew 1-1 with Liverpool.
Dirk Kuyt had put Liverpool ahead two minutes before half-time, and Liverpool then did enough to have won the game more comfortably, only for Riise to head a Salomon Kalou cross into his own net.
The return legs are on April 29 and 30.

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