Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Barcelona in the return leg of the Champions League semi-finals tonight at Old Trafford put the English side through to the final for the third time in their history. Barça did not manage a single goal in the 180 minutes of the tie, which finished with an aggregate score of 1-0.

The key moment of the night came 14 minutes into the game when Zambrotta gave a sloppy ball away to Scholes, who fired a great shot from outside the penalty area to beat Valdés near the upper left corner of the net. United saw their confidence increase after the goal and, while not playing the best of their games, enjoyed notable scoring chances in the remainder of the match. Barcelona had the control of the game in stints, but they never really looked solid and threatening enough to win the tie.

Lionel Messi played the 90 minutes and was the only Barça attacker who put the opposition’s defence in real trouble. Leo ran at defenders tirelessly, made some fine dribbles and came close to shooting positions a few times, but in the end none of his attempts were fruitful.

The second consecutive trophyless season for Barça means that significant changes will surely take place in the summer. Meanwhile, the team’s only objective will be to finish second on the domestic league; they currently occupy the third position, four points behind Villarreal, with four games to go.

The first leg of the Champions League semi-finals tie between Barcelona and Manchester United ended in a goalless draw tonight at the Camp Nou.

Manchester United had the best scoring chance of the match with a penalty shot that was sent wide by Cristiano Ronaldo after only two minutes had been played. From that moment on, Barcelona looked in control most of the game while Alex Ferguson’s side displayed a more defensive-minded attitude than usual. Barça played some good football but lacked spark in the final third of the pitch; the team wasn’t able to score but at least managed to keep a clean sheet, which gives them hope ahead of the second leg. Lionel Messi was the most threatening player on the local side, although his lack of stamina -he has come back from an injury only few days ago- saw Leo being replaced by Bojan after 61 minutes.

The tie will be decided in the return leg at Old Trafford next Tuesday. For their part, Liverpool and Chelsea, after a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their semi-final, will clash for the other spot in the Champions League final on Wednesday.

Leo Messi discussed several topics as he talked to the press yesterday:


Every player in the Barcelona team wants Ronnie to stay. It will be a pity if he goes. He was really helpful to me when I joined the squad. Every team in the world would like to have him, but I still have hope that he’ll stay with us.

-The upcoming UEFA Champions League semifinal:

Missing out on the final stages of our run for the Champions League title in 2006 was hard to take for me. That is why I can’t wait to play this year’s semifinal against Manchester United and, hopefully, the final.

-Saturday’s league clash with Espanyol:

Things have gotten really difficult for us as far as the league title is concerned. But a derby is always a derby, besides we still remember what happened in last year’s game against Espanyol. Personally, it will also do me good to have some more play time ahead of next Wednesday’s Champions League game.

FC Barcelona could only manage a 2-2 draw at Recreativo’s El Colombino stadium last night, thus ruining most of the hopes they still kept to win this year’s Spanish Liga title.

The two goals scored by Samuel Eto’o were countered with another double by local striker Rubén. Barça once again showed poor control of the game after having got the lead twice, and their defensive weaknesses ended up costing them two points. Still, it has to be said that the first Recreativo goal should not have been given, as the ball headed by Rubén and stopped by Valdés did not cross the goal line. Barça may find themselves nine points behind Real Madrid -with only six games to go- if the current leaders beat Murcia at the Bernabéu this evening.

The good news of the night for Frank Rijkaard’s side was that Lionel Messi finally came back from the muscle injury that had kept him sidelined for five weeks. The Argentinian forward came on for Giovani in the 64th minute and had some good moves and a couple of scoring chances in his time on the pitch. Next weekend’s derby against Espanyol will probably see Messi play more minutes in order to further improve his match fitness ahead of the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals tie against Manchester United, to be played in ten days.

FC Barcelona defeated Schalke 04 (1-0) yesterday at the Camp Nou to put themselves through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals (the aggregate score of the tie was 2-0). The goal scored by Yaya Toure near the end of the first half was the key, as it allowed Barça to regain composure and control, after their shaky first half of an hour had seen the German side dominate and create considerable danger.

Barça will now be facing Manchester United in what promises to be a really exciting semi-finals tie. The first game will take place at the Camp Nou on April 23, with the return leg to be played at Old Trafford on April 29.

For his part, Lionel Messi keeps working hard to get himself in good shape after having been sidelined for some weeks due to a hamstring injury. This morning Leo completed an entire group training session with the rest of the Barcelona squad, and even scored one of the goals in the match that wrapped up the practice, showing that his physical condition is already quite good. Messi’s return to play looks likely to take place very soon.

Following a three-week stay in his home country, Lionel Messi finally arrived back in Barcelona on Thursday. The Argentinian forward, who is in the process of recovering from a hamstring tear, was submitted to medical tests by the FC Barcelona doctors on Friday morning in order to assess the state of the injured area. After the tests and some physical work in La Masía fields supervised by Barça trainer Juanjo Brau, Lionel gave a press conference. Here is some of what he said:

I’ve been doing some good recovery work, and I’m feeling fine. I will now wait for the doctors to give me the all clear so that I can return to play. But I don’t feel any pressure about coming back soon. I just want to help the team

I expect to be ready to play the Champions League semifinals, if we reach that stage

Barça doctors have confirmed that Messi’s recovery has progressed according to plan during his stay in Argentina, and the player is now ready to take the final steps towards full fitness. No specific date has been set yet for Leo’s return to play.

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