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Ronaldo misses penalty in Barca stalemate

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, Apr 24, 2008 03:46 hrs

Barcelona: Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo fluffed an early penalty as his side drew 0-0 with a dominant Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

The Portugal international, who has scored 38 goals in all competitions this season, sent his spot kick high and wide after Barca centre-back Gabriel Milito handled the ball in the area with just over a minute on the clock.

"I didn't change my style on the penalty, today I didn't score but no problem – I will score in Manchester," Ronaldo told Sky Sports. "Nil-nil away is a good result."

United appeared stunned and surrendered the initiative to Barca but although the Catalans dominated they failed to take advantage and visiting goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was only seriously tested by substitute Thierry Henry late in the game.

Barca, the only non-English side in the semis, have been poor in the league but gave a far more impressive performance against an out-of-sorts United and will feel short-changed by a result that leaves the tie delicately balanced before next week's return at Old Trafford.

United seemed to have got off to a dream start when Milito conceded a penalty in the second minute, handling the ball after Ronaldo had beaten him to a header in the area.

But the normally super cool Portuguese completely missed the target, sending the ball past Victor Valdes's left post after he tried to chip it into the top corner.

The crowd exploded with delight at the winger's error, while United seemed to be in shock at their team mate's miss.

Barca took advantage of the confusion in the United ranks to put the visitors under heavy pressure with Deco driving forward from midfield and providing some good service for attacking trio Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Samuel Eto'o.

SURRENDERED POSSESSION

United barely got a sniff off the ball as Deco and Yaya Toure bossed the midfield and when they did get possession they looked nervous and surrendered the ball almost immediately.

But the visitors did cause Barca another scare on the half-hour when Ronaldo went down in the area as he tussled with Rafael Marquez after Iniesta misjudged a pass to the Mexican.

Barca continued to dominate but did not seriously challenge Van der Sar until the United goalkeeper tipped a long-range shot from right back Gianluca Zambrotta over the bar.

Messi and Iniesta sliced open United's defence with a gleaming one-touch passing move that left the ball in the path of Samuel Eto'o but the Cameroon striker hit the side netting.

Messi, making his first start since returning from a thigh injury, ran out of steam in the second half and Barca coach Frank Rijkaard sent on youngster Bojan Krkic and then Henry.

The Frenchman almost broke the deadlock with a rasping drive seven minutes from time but Van der Sar beat the shot clear and then stopped a free kick by the former Arsenal player to ensure the game finished in a stalemate.

"We created more chances than Barcelona, and we feel very confident, played well, defended well, we play at home now and have a great chance," added Ronaldo.

Barca centre-back Marquez will miss the second leg after picking up a booking for a foul on the Portugal winger.

The winner of the tie will play Liverpool or Chelsea in the final in Moscow on May 21. The two Premier League sides drew 1-1 at Anfield in their first leg match on Tuesday.


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