Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HISTORY: All-England Champions League Final Secured

All-England is no longer exclusive to Wimbledon tennis. Feel free to apply that descriptor to the 2008 Champions League final after Manchester United held on to beat Barcelona 1-0 yesterday at Old Trafford. Liverpool or Chelsea will join United May 21 in Moscow following the second leg of their semifinal today at 2:45 ET (ESPN2).

Pretty fitting Paul Scholes' wonder goal was the winner yesterday. Scholes was suspended for United's 1999 thriller victory over Bayern Munich, but he will get a chance to atone in three weeks.

Scholes' moment of brilliance was born of a Barcelona blunder. Gianluca Zambrotta's brilliant pilfering of a furious Ronaldo attack down the left side of the United attack was overshadowed by a horrific clearing attempt that Scholes welcomed about 30 meters from goal. Scholes volleyed the bouncing ball with great precision and movement, giving Barca keeper Victor Valdes no shot at keeping it out of the goal. United had its lead. Scholes had another defining moment.

Long unfit for national team play, Scholes may be playing his way back into Fabio Capello's consciousness. In the meantime, the Reds' redhead will settle for the big-eared cup, no doubt. In '99, he and Roy Keane accumulated too many yellow cards and were banned from the final, a 2-1 United shocker with a pair of goals in the closing seconds of the match.

Today's Chelsea-Liverpool second leg promises equal drama, and questions.

  • Will John Arne Riise atone for his own goal that gave the Blues a precious away goal?
  • Will Avram Grant silence them all and reach Europe's greatest stage?
  • Will grief-struck Frank Lampaard play today?
  • Does Steven Gerrard have another Champions League miracle in his holster?

All will be answered later today, and history will be made in three weeks.

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