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Man United beats Arsenal 1-0 in Champions League

JOHN O'Shea gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Arsenal yesterday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals, but the defending champion missed plenty of chances to win by a bigger margin.

The fullback scored in the 18th minute after Arsenal failed to clear a corner. United outplayed Arsenal for long spells and had chances of a far bigger victory, but was foiled by three good first-half saves by Manuel Almunia.

The Red Devils look certain to go to next week's second leg without center back Rio Ferdinand, who has a suspected broken rib after a late scramble in front of the United goal.

"He's gone to hospital and we will wait for the outcome of that," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "It doesn't look good at the moment."

The two teams meet again at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium next Tuesday. The winner will advance to the May 27 final in Rome to face either Barcelona or Chelsea, who drew 0-0 in Tuesday's first leg in Spain.

"We had chances and their goalkeeper made two or three fantastic saves," Ferguson said. "The more pleasing aspect is that, before the game I said (to the players) 'Try and win the game without conceding a goal.' We've done that.

"Our forward play was very good and that's given us a good chance."

Arsenal was without injured forward Robin van Persie and Russian star Andry Arshavin, who is not eligible to line up for the Gunners in the Champions League having played for Zenit St. Petersburg earlier in this season's competition. The result was that Arsene Wenger's men rarely created chances at Old Trafford but are fortunate they only have to make up a one-goal deficit at home.

Wenger believes that his team will play far better in the second leg.

"If you look at the clear-cut chances, they were on top," the Arsenal manager said. "The positive is that we are only 1-0 down that we take home, and I am convinced that you will see a different Arsenal team at the Emirates. I believe that we have a good chance to reverse the result.

"I believe that the tie is very open. (United) can have regrets because they didn't score a second goal. It's down to us to make sure they regret they didn't score a second goal."

United's pressure brought some early chances followed by a goal.

Wayne Rooney's looping header in the second minute was finger-tipped away by Almunia, and a well-worked move ended with O'Shea's cross to Carlos Tevez, whose close-range shot was well saved by the Gunners keeper.

From the corner, Michael Carrick beat a defender on the left and his cross deflected off Alex Song to the unmarked O'Shea, who drove the ball into the roof of the net.

After the 0-0 draw between Barcelona and Chelsea, that makes fullback O'Shea, who has scored 13 other goals for United, the only player to score in the semifinals so far although he said United should have had more.

"Possibly with the chances we had. Their 'keeper has made a couple of great saves," the Irish international said. "On our first half display we could have been a couple more goals up.

"But we have the goal, we kept a clean sheet and we know we're capable of scoring an away goal at the Emirates. In the second game we need to improve on retaining possession. Overall we have to be happy."

The defending champions maintained the momentum, and the busy Almunia saved a close-range header from Cristiano Ronaldo as well as his follow up shot. Later, he raced off his line to dive at the feet of Tevez as United threatened more goals.

"Almunia had a big game in a big game," Wenger said. "His saves were excellent, top class in every sense. His reading of the game, his decision making, quality, sharpness. He was really top class tonight."

Although Arsenal had a spell of possession before halftime, the Gunners did little to worry United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, with defenders Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic firmly in control of striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

The pattern continued in the second half, with Ronaldo having a shot blocked. After Adebayor made a series of mistakes at the other end, the Arsenal fans began chanting the name of striker Eduardo da Silva.

Adebayor's response was a powerful shot that just cleared the crossbar, but Ronaldo then replied with a 25-meter drive that shook the Gunners bar.

Ferguson sent on Dimitar Berbatov for the busy Tevez, and Ryan Giggs stretched his record number of appearances for the club to 800 when he came on for Anderson.


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