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Rooney double gives Manchester United victory
Trevor Huggins | April 25, 2007 02:17 IST
Last Updated: April 25, 2007 02:34 IST
Manchester United came from behind to beat AC Milan 3-2 in the first leg of a dramatic Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday with Wayne Rooney scoring the winner in stoppage time.
He latched on to a pass from Ryan Giggs and lashed the ball past Milan goalkeeper Dida's near post from the edge of the penalty area for his second goal of the game.
A beaming Uniited manager Alex Ferguson told ITV Sport moments after the game: "I thought we played some fantastic football and dominated the game. The equaliser gave us the incentive to go on and win it and the late goal gives us a magnificent chance of winning the tie now."
United, missing six first team regulars, made a superb start when Dida could only parry a Cristiano Ronaldo header into his own net after five minutes.
But Milan, the last team to beat United at home in European competition two years ago, equalised when Brazilian Kaka fired an angled left-foot shot past Edwin van der Sar after 22 minutes.
Kaka then put Milan 2-1 up 15 minutes later with a fine individual goal capitalising on the uncertainty in United's patched-up defence.
Rooney brought United back into the tie when he converted from close range to make it 2-2 in the 59th minute after a brilliantly executed scooped pass from Paul Scholes.
United, out to avenge consecutive 1-0 defeats by Milan in the 2005 knockout round, had to field a patched-up back line after injuries to Rio Ferdinand, skipper Gary Neville, Mikael Silvestre, Nemanja Vidic and midfielder-turned-defender Kieran Richardson.
But it seemed to matter little in the opening exchanges, with United drawing first blood when Ronaldo met a Ryan Giggs corner with a header that Dida parried upwards and then flapped into his own net under pressure from Gabriel Heinze.
United's Argentine defender was less lucky soon afterwards, though, when he failed to prevent Kaka from latching on to Clarence Seedorf's through-ball and rifling a low left-foot shot past Edwin van der Sar.
Though United replied with plenty of pressure and a stinging shot from Ronaldo which Dida could only parry, their night went from bad to worse in the 37th minute.
Kaka surged forward on a solo run, outmanoeuvring Darren Fletcher and then dodging the luckless Heinze, who was promptly flattened by the in-rushing Patrice Evra to leave both United men in a heap. Kaka nodded the ball through the gap the United defenders created and was left completely alone to sweep the ball past a helpless Van der Sar from close range.
Kaka, already the Champions League's top scorer this season, took his tally to nine and left United facing their first home defeat since a Premier League loss to Arsenal in September.
To complete a miserable half for United's back four, left-back Evra marked his return from injury with a yellow card for dissent that rules him out of the second leg at San Siro next Wednesday.
But United, who have only lost five times at home in 51 years in European competition, came storming back in the second half before Rooney sealed victory with his late winner.
Milan, with two away goals, are far from beaten and will also fancy their chances of reaching next month's final against either Liverpool or Chelsea when they face United at home in the San Siro in next Wednesday's second leg.
Manchester United: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 22-John O'Shea, 6-Wes Brown, 4-Gabriel Heinze, 3-Patrice Evra; 24-Darren Fletcher, 16-Michael Carrick, 18-Paul Scholes; 7-Cristiano Ronaldo, 8-Wayne Rooney, 11-Ryan Giggs.
AC Milan: 1-Dida; 44-Massimo Oddo, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 3-Paolo Maldini (25-Daniele Bonera 46), 18-Marek Jankulovski; 8-Gennaro Gattuso (32-Cristian Brocchi 53), 21-Andrea Pirlo, 23-Massimo Ambrosini, 10-Clarence Seedorf; 22-Kaka; 11-Alberto Gilardino (20-Yoann Gourcuff 84).
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece).
UEFA Champions League 2006-07: The Complete Coverage