Barcelona and Manchester United reach Champions semis

Barcelona and Manchester United moved a step closer to a rematch of the 2009 Champions League final yesterday, as both clubs earned victories to extend their first-leg advantage and reach the semis.

Lionel Messi scored his club-record 48th goal of the season in the 43rd minute to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk and secure a comfortable 6-1 aggregate victory that had never looked in doubt.

There was more drama at Old Trafford, where Park Ji-sung secured a 2-1 win for United over 10-man Chelsea, scoring the winner less than a minute after second-half substitute Didier Drogba had equalised for the London club in the 77th.

Javier Hernandez scored the opener in the 43rd, as United advanced 3-1 on aggregate.

“I think we played very, very well against a very, very good team,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “Chelsea played a big part in that game today. I thought we were the better team on the night. In a team game we had some fantastic performances, Park, Chicharito (Hernandez), all over, no one let us down.”

Barcelona are now looking at a likely semi-final against arch-rival Real Madrid, which hold a 4-0 edge over Tottenham going into the second leg of their quarter-final today.

United will face the winner of Schalke and defending champion Inter Milan, with the German club having won the first leg 5-2 in Italy.

No rest for the stars

Barcelona, who beat United 2-0 in the final two years ago, only needed to avoid an unlikely collapse in Ukraine following their 5-1 rout in the first leg. But coach Pep Guardiola still opted against giving stars like Messi, Xavi and David Villa a rest despite upcoming games against Madrid in both the league and Copa del Rey final.

While Shakthar came out attacking from the start, Barcelona soaked up the pressure and repeatedly threatened on counter-attacks. Messi provided the breakthrough in the 43rd when he received a pass from Dani Alves before holding off a defender in the box and slotting the ball past Pyatov for his ninth goal in 10 matches in the competition this season.

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