Barca too blunt to worry United

A rare failure of nerve by Cristiano Ronaldo cost Manchester United the chance of a famous victory but Sir Alex Ferguson's side still emerged as favourites to reach the Champions League final after a goalless draw with Barcelona in their semi-final first leg clash here yesterday.

A rare failure of nerve by Cristiano Ronaldo cost Manchester United the chance of a famous victory but Sir Alex Ferguson's side still emerged as favourites to reach the Champions League final after a goalless draw with Barcelona in their semi-final first leg clash here yesterday.

It could have been so much better for the English champions if Ronaldo had not missed a third minute penalty but, after an enthralling contest that Barcelona undoubtedly edged on points, United will not complain too loudly about the outcome.

The visitors' display never threatened to scale the heights they have touched at times this season

But a gritty defensive display and the relatively meagre ration of real chances they accorded Barcelona will have given Ferguson justifiable cause for optimism about the outcome of next Tuesday's second leg.

Barcelona immediately set about making the most of their let-off as Lionel Messi repeatedly jinked and swerved into dangerous positions.

The bluntness of Barcelona's cutting edge in part reflected the fact that Rio Ferdinand was winning his personal battle with Samuel Eto'o and it was not until five minutes into the second half that the Cameroon striker finally escaped his shadow.

Van der Sar had his first save to make just before an hour had elapsed to smother Xavi's low drive.

The Dutch goalkeeper followed that up with two competent saves from substitute Thierry Henry in the closing minutes. - Sapa-AFP

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