Stylish United sweep past Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney notched up a 2-0 victory at Roma on Tuesday night to virtually assure Manchester United's berth in semi-finals.

updated: April 15, 2008 12:05 IST
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Goal scorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney notched up a 2-0 victory at Roma on Tuesday night to virtually assure Manchester United's berth in the Champions League semi-finals.

United showed they could still dominate the Italians following last season's 8-3 aggregate triumph at the same stage of the competition with a stylish and clinical display.

Ronaldo played down his goal simply saying his 36th of the season was 'a good header' and preferred to comment on the team's overall performance.

"That was a very good performance in what was a top game," he said. "We created a few chances and scored twice and we deserved the victory. "The defence were terrific and they played their part. It was a good job overall but we must remember that the Champions League is a different style to the Premiership."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was more satisfied than ecstatic at the performance.

"We had to defend really well and we got a couple of lucky breaks in the second-half when they had chances especially down the left," said the Scotsman.

"We should have released Rooney earlier on several occasions but it was a good and disciplined performance and we didn't concede a goal which was vital."

But for the first 15 minutes of the second period, Roma, who were missing talisman Francesco Totti, never looked capable of challenging the Red Devils.

Even so, Roma coach Luciano Spalletti refused to accept the tie is over. "It will be extremely hard to get to the next round now but we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking it's already over," he said.

"The English were lucky with their goal scoring chances but they played with a lot of experience.

"We've already scored twice away from home in the Champions League, though."

United enjoyed a lot of the ball in the first period as Roma sat back, seemingly intent on not giving anything away.

On 12 minutes, though, the visitors opened up the Roma defence but after Park Ji-Sung took the ball down on his chest he was crowded out.

Christian Panucci headed just over the bar from a David Pizarro corner and Mirko Vucinic also shot over as he was falling backwards after Rio Ferdinand had slipped.

United then suffered a blow as Nemanja Vidic was stretchered off with a leg injury, to be replaced by John O'Shea.

"We think it's a nerve, at least we hope it is, but it is in his knee so we are not sure of the seriousness of it yet," said Ferguson.

Chances were few and far between but on 39 minutes United produced a move of majestic quality, switching the ball around the edge of the Roma box and transferring it from left to right before Paul Scholes crossed for Ronaldo to come steaming in like a train to out jump Marco Cassetti and thump home a header.

Just three minutes later Roma had their best chance of the opening stanza after a mistake from Ferdinand but Vucinic dragged his shot from the left just beyond the far upright.

Roma came out after the break looking like a team that knew they needed to get something from this game to stand any chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

Vucinic played in Max Tonetto but he lashed his shot wide of the near post, failing even to force Edwin van der Sar into making a save.

From a quick throw Panucci had a great chance but skied his volley from six yards. Substitute Ludovic Giuly then got behind the United defence but Van der Sar cut out his cross.

And the big Dutch keeper made a stunning one-handed save on 62 minutes from a Vucinic header to keep the scores level.

Four minutes later, United scored a crucial second as Park headed a deep cross from Wes Brown back across goal and Rooney mopped up the loose ball after goalkeeper Doni and Panucci impeded each other.

Moments later Ronaldo had a shot deflected onto the outside of the post as United threatened to run riot.

They started to open up a desperate Roma at will and Michael Carrick fired inches wide 18 minutes from time.

United's fans then started entertaining themselves by chanting 'we want seven' in reference to last season's 7-1 thrashing of Roma at Old Trafford.

Rooney had two glorious chances to heap more misery on Roma late on but had one shot blocked and sent the other wide.

Ronaldo almost scored with a stunning late volley from substitute Carlos Tevez's cross but the ball flew over the bar.