Champions League – O’Shea gives United advantage

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John O’Shea‘s first-half goal earned Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford.

Manchester United's John O'Shea (centre) celebrates scoring his side's first goal with teammates Rio Ferdinand (left) and Wayne Rooney (right) PA PHOTOS - 0

Arsenal were thankful for a string of first-half saves from Manuel Almunia to keep them in the tie and Cristiano Ronaldo struck the crossbar in the second half.

Manchester United extended their unbeaten European record to 24 matches but will rue those spurned chances that could have effectively killed the tie before Tuesday’s return at the Emirates Stadium.

United signalled their intent as early as the second minute when Darren Fletcher‘s cross was met at the back post by Wayne Rooney and his header looped off the back of Bacary Sagna‘s head and was clawed away by Almunia.

Almunia rescued Arsenal once more when United worked the ball to the right and O’Shea squared the ball to Carlos Tevez, picked in preference to Dimitar Berbatov.

Although the Argentine slightly scuffed his shot from seven yards, it was still a superb one-handed save to his left by Almunia who was alert to smother the follow-up.

But from the resulting corner came the breakthrough after 17 minutes with Arsenal attracted to the ball and leaving too much space at the back post allowing O’Shea to slash home Carrick’s pass from close range with the ball taking a slight deflection off Mikael Silvestre.

However a great chance to double the lead before the interval was wasted when Tevez stood the ball up at the back post only for Ronaldo’s header from no more than four yards to be repelled by Almunia.

The second-half drifted until Ryan Giggs came off the bench to make his 800th Manchester United appearance with Berbatov also entering the action, replacing Tevez.

That lifted the crowd and almost immediately Cesc Fabregas was caught in possession and Ronaldo unleashed a dipping effort from 30 yards that bounced off the crossbar with Almunia beaten.

Carrick then saw a 30-yard drive fizz past the post before a borderline offside flag denied Giggs a goal on a landmark night.

The Gunners’ only shot on target in the match was a 20-yard drive from skipper Fabregas which was comfortably held by Edwin van der Sar low down.

But their best chance came five minutes from time and could have changed the face of the tie with that vital away goal.

Substitute Nicklas Bendtner reached Fabregas’s free-kick ahead of the advancing van der Sar but the Dane got far too much purchase on his header from seven yards and a great chance was lost.

A glancing nod would have been enough for the Gunners to steal an unjustified equaliser but at just 1-0 down they are very much in with a chance of a second Champions League final appearance in four years.

Lee Walker / Eurosport

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