CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL: Man Utd hammer Schalke at Old Trafford

Manchester United have qualified for the final of the UEFA Champions League in sparkling fashion with a 4-1 hammering of FC Schalke tonight.

The Red Devils picked up where they left off with last week’s 2-0 away win against their German opponents by knocking four past Ralf Rangnick’s men to progress to the decider with a 6-1 aggregate.

Antonio Valencia opened up proceedings in the 26th minute with a neat finish before Darron Gibson forced an uncustomary error from Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer just after the half-hour mark.

The visitors had a slight reprieve when Jose Manuel Jurado smashed home four minutes after Gibson’s goal but all that hope was lost when Anderson netted twice in quick succession with around 15 minutes remaining to send Sir Alex Ferguson and his charges into the final where they will meet Catalan powerhouse Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester notched up their 15th win in a row at Old Trafford in tonight’s semi-final but the Wembley fixture on May 28 will be a much different task against a Barca outfit who continue to dazzle the football world.

It will be both clubs second Champions League final in three years (United's third in the last four) and sets up a replay between the two sides following Barcelona’s 2-0 victory in Rome in the 2008/09 version.

UEFA Champions League
Manchester United: 4 (Antonio Valencia 26’, Darron Gibson 31’, Anderson 72’/76’)
FC Schalke: 1 (Jose Manuel Jurado 35’)
*Man Utd win 6-1 on aggregate

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Crowd: 74,687
Referee: Pedro Proenca
Yellow cards: MANU - Darron Gibson 37’, Paul Scholes 38’, Anderson 42’
SCH - Sergio Escudero 58’

Schalke begun with a very energetic style as they went about trying to cut down the two-goal deficit and they enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening 10 or so minutes before United got themselves into proceedings by looking much more dangerous in going forward.

There were no out-and-out chances in the first 25 minutes as both defences were doing their job to a fairly acceptable degree before United hit the lead in the 26th minute.
GOAL Antonio Valencia was played in by an exquisite ball from Darron Gibson after a Schalke error in midfield and with plenty of space, the Ecuadorian advanced into the area before slotting it under a sliding Manuel Neuer to make it 1-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate.

GOAL Just over five minutes after the opener, the Red Devils added a second when they worked the ball into the area from a corner with Valencia playing it back to the top of the box. His cut-back found Gibson who was on hand to smash home, forcing an error out of the usually cool Neuer who could not quite get down to the Irishman’s attempt.

GOAL In the 35th minute, Schalke gave themselves some hope when Jose Manuel Jurado was the recipient of a loose ball after Atsuto Uchida’s cross from the right and the Spaniard smashing it sweetly past Edwin van der Sar to cut the overall deficit to three goals.

Almost instantly the Schalke defence came up with a vital save when Valencia managed to round Neuer just outside the six-yard box but his shot was cleared off the line by Benedikt Howedes, bringing a huge sigh of relief from the visiting bench.

It was end-to-end stuff at Old Trafford as the atmosphere heightened but apart from a few yellow cards going the way of the home side, the first half brought about no further goalscoring chances.

Schalke had a few good chances early in the second half when Raul got free in the area but flicked it back for Jefferson Farfan whose shot was blocked before the veteran Spaniard whipped it dangerously into the area from the ensuing corner where the United defence held strong.

Neuer was back to his best in the 55th minute when he came up with top-shelf save from Anderson’s effort from just inside the area on the left-hand side. The Brazilian was fed by Dimitar Berbatov after he was cleverly played in by Nani but Neuer was able to send the curling shot wide of the far upright, making up for his earlier blunder.

The sting went out of proceedings as the minutes ticked away whereas it would have been in Schalke’s interests to go after some goals but just like the first leg they failed to really put much pressure on the United defence.

The ball was in the back of the net for a third for the home side when Chris Smalling bobbled it in from close range after some brilliant lead-up work from Valencia and Nani but the flag was immediately up for off-side as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men took complete control of the match.

GOAL However, that third goal did come in the 72nd minute when United broke on the counter through Nani who advanced toward the byline before cutting back for Anderson whose initial sliding attempt was blocked by Uchida. But the Brazilian reacted the quickest and got back on his feet before swiveling onto his left and tucking it past Neuer to send his side into the final.

GOAL A few minutes later, United grabbed a fourth when Valencia played it into Berbatov on the right side of the area and the Bulgarian set up the easiest of finishes for Anderson who doubled his United tally with a tap-in from the six-yard box to completely ravage the travelling Schalke outfit.

Schalke substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had a second one in the net for the Germans after van der Sar saved a fierce Edu shot with just over seven minutes left but the Dutchman was off-side which pretty much bought about an end to any clearcut chances.

Starting Line-Ups

Man Utd
Edwin van der Sar (gk) – Rafael (Evra 60’), Jonathan Evans, Chris Smalling, John O’Shea– Anderson, Paul Scholes (Fletcher 73’), Darron Gibson – Antonio Valencia, Dimitar Berbatov (Owen 77’), Nani

Subs - Tomasz Kuszczak (gk), Patrice Evra (60’), Darren Fletcher (73’), Michael Owen (77’), Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernandez

Schalke
Manuel Neuer (gk) – Atsuto Uchida, Christoph Metzelder, Benedikt Howedes (Huntelaar 70’), Sergio Escudero – Jose Manuel Jurado, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfan (Matip 75’) – Raul Gonzalez, Alexander Baumjohann (Edu 46’)

Subs - Mathis Schober (gk), Edu (46’), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (70’), Joel Matip (75’), Ali Karimi, Hans Sarpei, Lukas Schmitz

 
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