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Manchester United wins European Champions' League

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

By ROBERT MILLWARD

AP Soccer Writer

MOSCOW -- Manchester United beat Chelsea 6-5 in a rain-soaked penalty shootout to win the European Champions League title Wednesday night following a 1-1 tie.

In the first final between two English teams, Edwin van der Sar batted away Nicolas Anelka's drive on the 14th kick to give Manchester United its third Champions League title. This championship, following titles in 1968 and 1999, came in the 50th anniversary year of the plane crash that killed eight United players in Munich, Germany.

Cristiano Ronaldo had scored in the 26th minute for Manchester United, his 42nd goal of the season. Frank Lampard tied it for Chelsea in the 45th at Luzhniki Stadium, pointing both hands skyward in honor of his mother, who died last month.

Ronaldo, considered by many Europe's top player this season, was stopped by goalkeeper Petr Cech on United's third penalty kick. That gave the advantage to Chelsea, which has never won Europe's top club title.

"When we missed the penalty kick, we thought we were in trouble," said United's Alex Ferguson, who led the club to its 22nd title overall since he became manager in September 1986.

Chelsea captain John Terry stepped up with the score 4-4 and the chance to win it. But he slipped and his kick hit a post as Manchester keeper Edwin van der Sar dived the other way. Terry sat on the ground in disbelief.

"I was thinking he's going to score," United defender Rio Ferdinand said of Terry, his defensive teammate on the England squad. "He's a great penalty taker normally. but he slipped."

Anderson and Ryan Giggs -- making his club-record 759th appearance -- then converted for United around Salomon Kalou's score for Chelsea.

That left it up to Anelka, whose failure at just past 1:30 a.m. set off another celebration for the Red Devils, who 10 days earlier won their second straight English Premier League title by beating out Chelsea on the final day of the season.

While his teammates ran to congratulate Van der Sar in front of the United fans behind the goal, Ronaldo lay face down in the center circle. Eventually he got up to join in the celebrations.

Terry was in tears at the end and was hugged and consoled by coach Avram Grant, who appeared to throw his runners-up medal toward Chelsea fans.

Carlos Tevez, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Nani scored the other kicks for the Red Devils. Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Lampard, Ashley Cole converted for Chelsea.

Manchester United won its first European title since it was purchased three years ago by Malcolm Glazer, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the 2003 Super Bowl.

Chelsea, which has become a European power under high-spending Russian owner Roman Abramovich, finished with 10 men after Didier Drogba was ejected in the 116th minute for petulantly tapping Nemanja Vidic in the face with his hand.

Only the pre-game opening ceremony made it look like Moscow. After that it could have been Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or Wembley as players so familiar with each other were roared on by English fans.

The first 25 minutes, however, were a poor advertisement for the Premier League as Chelsea stifled United's efforts to create moves and the action got stuck in the midfield.

Ronaldo, poorly marked by Michael Essien, Ronaldo headed in a cross from Wes Brown, who had neatly swapped passes with Paul Scholes on the right wing. Ronaldo scored a Champions League-leading eight goals in 11 matches, and his season total was third in United history behind Denis Law (46 in 1963-64) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (44 in 2002-3).

Chelsea equalized when Essien's shot hit defenders Vidic and Ferdinand, and the ball dropped to the unmarked Lampard, who scored from 12 yards.

Lampard hit the crossbar in the fourth minute of injury time with a left-footed shot from 15 yards. Giggs, who broke Bobby Charlton's record for United appearances, nearly broke the tie in the 100th but Terry deflected the shot with his head.



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