So much for Sir Alex Ferguson's UEFA Champions League script of going away in the first leg and getting a scoreless draw before going through with a win at home in the second leg. Manchester United went to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie and came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal as well as some fortunate refereeing at the end. The Red Devils will now head back to Old Trafford for next week's second leg knowing that any sort of draw will see them through to the semifinals.
Chelsea were actually the better side in the early going, although no one would call them dominant. Any edge that the Blues had though they lost in the 24th minute when Rooney scored in the Champions League quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year. A cleared corner kick didn't make it quite far enough and Michael Carrick was able to spot Ryan Giggs out on the left. Giggs had acres of space because Jose Bosingwa was nowhere to be found and took the ball to the end line before crossing for Rooney. From there, it was a classy sidefooted finish just inside the post for Rooney and United were ahead 1-0.
Chasing a goal, Chelsea put all the pressure on United in the closing moments of the first half only to be denied by late defending and bad luck. Fernando Torres was set up beautifully only to put the ball off the bar. Frank Lampard followed by putting the ball on what appeared to be an open goal, but Patrice Evra cleared it off the line. Another Lampard attempt was blocked and the Blues were left to wonder how they weren't level going into halftime.
The second half brought more of the same with United getting some chances, but Chelsea being the better side. Being the better side didn't matter though because Chelsea couldn't find a goal. It didn't help that Torres continued to be ineffectual and is now 10 matches into his Chelsea career without a goal. He almost got one in the 75th minute when he did well to leap and snap a header towards the side netting, but Edwin van der Sar made a tremendous save to continue Torres' frustration.
Chelsea would be left to turn their attention to the referee in the waning minutes though as two penalty decisions went against them. First, Ramires was taken to the ground by Evra in one of the more obvious penalties anyone will see. Evra was on the wrong side of Ramires, trampled all over Ramires and knocked him to the ground with no possible argument on behalf of Evra's innocence. Even so, the referee inexplicably told Ramires to get up and the Blues were rightfully incensed.
A few moments later Chelsea were denied another penalty, this time when Rio Ferdinand took down Torres. It wasn't as obvious a penalty as the previous one. Torres wasn't completely run over by Ferdinand like Ramires was by Evra, but Ferdinand still came around Torres and put his foot in Torres way. Torres went down, undoubtedly making the most of the contact, but the contact was there and Ferdinand impeded Torres chance in the box and the referee missed it.
As unfortunate as Chelsea may have been in the waning moments when both of their penalty appeals were wrongly denied, they were fortunate to finish with 11 men. After the referee failed to award Torres his penalty, Ramires made his way over to the man with the whistle and pushed him. Contact with the referee is a sending off each and every time and Chelsea should have been forced to finish the match down a man.
Controversy aside, Manchester United holds a 1-0 lead going back to Old Trafford and are in complete control of this Champions League tie. Should they hold on at home, United will move on to the semifinals where they will likely play Schalke, who hold a 5-2 lead going back home in their tie with Inter Milan.