Rooney Saves United -- In a thrilling match, with the momentum swinging back and forth, Wayne Rooney struck just beyond the 90:00 mark, to deliver a crucial 3-2 victory to his Manchester United side. It was Rooney's second goal of the half, as United rallied back from a dispiriting 2-1 halftime deficit. Certainly, Manchester did not want to have the pressure of needing to win in Milan, in the return leg of their semifinal Champions League series with AC Milan, next Wednesday. Rooney's strike, off a neatly slotted pass by Ryan Giggs, beat Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, a few seconds after the game slipped into stoppage time...and touched off an explosion of joy among the Red Devils' faithful.
The game had started well for United, and miserably for Dida. A corner kick found it's way to Cristian Ronaldo's head, but Dida was unable to stop Ronaldo's header. The ball bounced off Dida, high into the air. Dida chased after the ball as it was coming back down, but wasn't able to get enough of his hand on to it, to keep it out of the goal. United followed with some excellent chances, but Dida did much better, making difficult stops on Michael Carrick, Giggs and Ronaldo.
Defensive breakdowns by United opened the door for the Milan squad, and it was Kaka that kept walking through. First, Kaka sprinted past Gabriel Heinze and cut his shot back beyond the reach of of United's 'keeper, Edwin van der Sar, just inside the far post for the tying goal. Then Kaka raced for a long ball and headed it away from the battling Heinze, who was knocked off the play by the charging Patrice Evra. That Left Kaka all alone in front of van der Sar, and the Brazilian buried the shot to put Milan ahead.
In the early parts of the second half, though United missed a golden chance early on, it was Milan that looked the more dangerous side. Kaka missed two excellent opportunities to gain his hat trick. With the United defense looking badly exposed, United responded by throwing themselves forward against a suddenly depleted Milan defense. Team captain Paolo Maldini and Gennaro Gattuso were both replaced because of injuries. The weakened Milan defense gave way, as Paul Scholes' touch over the defense came down to Rooney, who forced the ball under Dida's save attempt -- though Dida did slow the ball down, the shot got past him and found the goal.
While United continued to press the attack and challenge Dida, it seemed, as the clock edged towards 90:00, that Milan would escape with a hard-fought, deserved draw. However, as the game crossed into stoppage time, Giggs drove down the center, forcing Dida to cover the back post. Giggs delivered a nice pass to his right the crossing Rooney. Dida failed to react, holding his back post position, leaving Rooney a huge amount of real estate to aim at on the near side. He didn't miss. United got the much-needed win, making an all-England final a likely prospect. Chelsea meets Liverpool tomorrow, in the first leg of their semifinal series.