Manuel Neuer showed just why he is one of the finest goalkeepers in the contemporary game but not even he could stop an outstanding Manchester United, which fully deserved to win
Manchester United overcame a virtuoso display from Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to record a convincing 2-0 victory in its Champions League semifinal first leg clash in Gelsenkirchen. The overwhelmingly superior visitors take a two-goal advantage back to Old Trafford thanks to two strikes in three second-half minutes from Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.
After having dominated the game, the seemingly elusive goal finally arrived for Manchester United in the 67th minute. Wayne Rooney, dropping off in a deep position, feigned initially to shoot before proceeding to pick out Ryan Giggs with a perfectly weighted through ball. The Welsh wizard kept his cool to slide the ball under the advancing Neuer into the net. It was no less than the Premier League leaders had deserved.
Having finally breached the Schalke defense once, it took a mere two minutes for the visitors to double their advantage. The home backline was torn asunder by the run of Javier Hernandez, who slipped in the unmarked Rooney. The United No. 10 produced a terrific first time finish, which gave Neuer no chance and handed the visitors a comfortable two-goal buffer.
In a remarkably open first-half, Schalke offered very little in attack after Alexander Baumjohann's first-minute effort. Joel Matip's lapse in concentration shortly after allowed Rooney to produce a curling effort but he was splendidly denied by Neuer, and it became a recurring theme as the German No. 1 then kept out a Park Ji-Sung shot in the sixth minute. Moments later, Hernandez was foiled by Neuer having sprung the offside trap.
Hernandez's constant hassling caught Kyriakos Papadopoulos out in the 22nd minute but instead of shooting, he mistakenly looked for Rooney, allowing Matip to intercept. Mexican striker Hernandez shrugged off Matip three minutes later before admonishing himself as he shot wide from a narrow angle. Neuer then produced an outstretched right arm to keep a Ryan Giggs header out as the Red Devils began to establish their superiority.
Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick was seen shaking his head on the touchline as his team was carved upon once more. Neuer beat away Hernandez's drive before the follow-up from Park was desperately blocked by Uchida. Soon after, Fabio found himself 10 yards out. However, he was unable to keep his shot under the crossbar. Giggs looked as if would send United into the break ahead but he too was foiled by Neuer when one-on-one.
United forced Neuer into action in the first minute of the second period as he was required to tip Evra's near-post header over and then Giggs squandered another chance when he sliced wide on his right peg having come inside two defenders. Hernandez finally tucked the ball into the net on 51 minutes although he was correctly flagged for offside. After the visitors' quick double strike, they were able to see the game out with consumate ease and professionalism.
The two sides will renew acquintances in three weeks for the second leg at Old Trafford with the English side having one foot in the final of the Champions League, which will be played at Wembley.