Champions League - Rooney leads United to win

Eurosport - Wed, 17 Feb 03:33:00 2010

Two Wayne Rooney headers midway through the second half gave Manchester United a 3-2 win at Milan in a pulsating Champions League last 16 first leg.

Manchester United's Rooney celebrates after scoring against AC Milan during their Champions League soccer match in Milan - 0

Milan took an early lead through a deflected Ronaldinho volley only to see a fortunate Paul Scholes strike level matters before half-time.

Rooney finished both headers brilliantly for a 3-1 lead before substitute Clarence Seedorf, who had replaced starter David Beckham, flicked in at the near post to set up a late charge from the hosts.

Michael Carrick was sent off after picking up a second yellow card in injury-time.

The vociferous home fans were given an electric start by their side when Brazilian magician Ronaldinho's volley to the near post was covered by Edwin van der Sar but struck Carrick and spun in past the Dutchman's outstretched leg.

The chance had arrived following a Beckham free-kick from near halfway and the former England captain, facing his former side for the first time, was restricted to angled drives from deep throughout his 72 minutes on the field except for a few dangerous free-kicks which United struggled to clear.

After that third minute goal, United struggled to create anything in the final third whereas Milan were more incisive on the counter and Ronaldinho could have had a free-kick or even penalty as he was blocked off the ball by Rio Ferdinand.

With Jonny Evans and Ferdinand struggling to contain Milan, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar fired wide after spinning off a challenge and on to a Massimo Ambrosini pass. It looked like only one side would be capable of scoring on the night.

Indeed United had not scored in four visits to face Milan in the San Siro in Europe, but that was to change on 36 minutes when Scholes angled into the penalty area.

Darren Fletcher, played in by Park Ji-Sung on the right, found his run and the ball came off Scholes's supporting leg after he missed his volley with his right foot.

Ronaldinho tested Van der Sar with a dipping strike and he also went close 16 minutes into the second half with a curled effort which was just palmed past the far post.

Before that Andrea Pirlo's perfect strike from 35 yards out was also tipped away by Van der Sar while Alexandre Pato headed over from a Giuseppe Favalli cross when left unmarked near the penalty spot.

The stage was set for Rooney, who despite scoring eight goals in his seven previous appearances in all competitions, was yet to score in three Champions League games this season.

In the 66th minute he silenced the Rossoneri support with a measured header into the far corner from inside the six-yard box. The cross to the back post was inch-perfect from Antonio Valencia, who had replaced Nani on the right flank only a minute beforehand.

The England striker went close with a low drive a minute after Beckham was replaced - and just a minute after that, Rooney had his second and United's third.

Playing in his 50th Champions League match, the bear-like striker sprang the offside trap and nodded Fletcher's curled cross inside Dida's near post.

Another Valencia ball across the six-yard box, this one fizzed low to the ground, could have seen Rooney claim a hat-trick while the latter also saw a free-kick fly just wide.

With five minutes left to play Milan were awoken by a top-notch Seedorf strike. Ronaldinho wove his way down the left side of the penalty area and sent a low cross into the danger area where a clever flick beat Van der Sar at his near post.

Ronaldinho played a pass into the path of the evergreen substitute Filippo Inzaghi who struck first time just over while Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta got in each other's way when free to meet a corner.

United saw the victory out, but not before Carrick was given his marching orders for kicking the ball away following an Evra foul in the middle of the park. He had been booked earlier after catching Ronaldinho late with a sliding challenge.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side extended their unbeaten away run in Europe to a record 16 matches with the victory.

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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