Wednesday, April 30, 2008


FOUR quarter-finalists, three semi-finalists and, now, the two finalists. Proof, if it were needed, that the English Premier League rules supreme in Europe.

Manchester United and Chelsea will contest the first all-English Champions League final in Moscow on May 21.

United beat Barcelona 1-0 in the second leg at home on Tuesday (winning 1-0 on aggregate) thanks to a swerving 25-yard shot from long-serving midfielder Paul Scholes.

Chelsea defeated Liverpool 3-2 after extra time to complete a 4-3 aggregate victory. Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, their top scorer, netted twice with England international Frank Lampard converting a penalty.

Manchester United have won the competition – formerly known as the European Cup – twice. They beat Benfica of Portugal 4-1 after extra time in 1968 and Bayern Munich of Germany 2-1 in 1999 under current manager Sir Alex Ferguson (they trailed 1-0 going into injury time).

Scholes missed that game due to suspension. Now, nine years later, he will get a chance to claim a Champions League winners’ medal.

Chelsea are appearing in the final for the first time. The two clubs are also contesting the Premier League title. Chelsea drew level on points with the Red Devils by beating them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.

While Wembley Stadium would have been a more fitting venue for the final, Moscow was chosen before the start of the season.

Fans face long trek to Moscow

That means fans of the two teams will have to apply for visas before embarking by plane, boat and train across the Continent.

United owe much of their success to the management of Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been in charge at Old Trafford since 1986.

The second-longest serving manager in the club’s history after Sir Matt Busby, the 66-year-old Scotsman has won more trophies than any other coach in the history of English football.

Thanks to 38 goals from Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo, there could be another two for the cabinet by the end of this month.

Chelsea’s emergence as a European super power has been made possible by the millions invested by Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich.

The London club, who for so long had to live in the shadows of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, are currently managed by the Israeli, Avram Grant.

Grant has succeeded where his predecessor, José Mourinho, failed and taken Chelsea all the way to the final.

There won’t be too many Englishman on the pitch in Moscow but there will certainly be plenty in the stands. The final should be well worth watching.

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