Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-1 Manchester United FC (3-3 on aggregate, Leverkusen win on away goals)
Battered and bruised, brave Bayer 04 Leverkusen upset the odds by knocking out Manchester United FC to reach their first UEFA Champions League final.
Roared on by a passionate crowd at the BayArena tonight, the German side came from behind to draw tonight's second leg 1-1 and progress to Glasgow on 15 May by virtue of the away goals rule. However, Klaus Toppmöller's side had to battle hard for their place in the final against either Real Madrid CF or FC Barcelona after going a goal down to Roy Keane's ice-cool finish just before the half-hour mark.
Stricken with injuries, Leverkusen refused to buckle and equalised through Oliver Neuville's rasping effort deep into first-half stoppage time. United only began to find their rhythm toward the end of the second half, but despite a string of half-chances, Leverkusen's resilience, self-belief and organised approach won the day, and consigned United to their first season without a major domestic or European trophy since 1998.
After last week's pulsating 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, the opening ten minutes were somewhat disappointing. Neither side truly found their feet and a string of misplaced passes meant little in the way of goalscoring opportunities.
Then Leverkusen were struck with the first, but by far the most serious, of a series of injuries. German international defender Jens Nowotny tackled Ruud van Nistelrooij but fell to the ground clutching his knee and was swiftly carried off the field on a stretcher and replaced by Zoltán Sebescen.
Leverkusen almost got an instant lift when, 13 minutes in, Bernd Schneider rattled the United goalframe with a venomous 20-metre effort that had French international goalkeeper Fabien Barthez beaten.
That changed the pace of the game, and after Ronny Johnsen had seen his back-post header from a Ryan Giggs corner hooked off the line by Zé Roberto, United took the lead.
The visitors broke clear on 28 minutes when the ever-industrious Keane played a one-two with Van Nistelrooij and, aided by Boris Zivkovic's slip, the Republic of Ireland international beat Leverkusen goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt to the ball with his right foot and clipped the ball over a sliding defender and into the empty net from an acute angle with his left.
But although United looked comfortable at that stage, the home side forced their way back into the game and on the stroke of half-time the busy Yildiray Bastürk slid the ball forward to Neuville on the edge of the United area, and the striker turned before firing a first-time shot high into the roof of the United net for a spectacular equaliser.
Barthez not troubled
The second half started similarly to the first, with shots from Sebescen and two from Neuville failing to trouble Barthez unduly. But as tempers began to fray, Leverkusen's Zé Roberto was cautioned for dissent - a costly yellow card which means he will have to sit out the Hampden Park final through suspension.
By this stage, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had introduced Ole Gunnar Solskjær, so often United's saviour from the substitutes' bench. The English side then dominated the last 15 minutes but failed to find a way through.
United go closest
Aside from Schneider’s audacious 50-metre effort, which dipped over the visitors’ crossbar, United had all the late chances. Paul Scholes, booked for an tackle on Zé Roberto around the hour mark, flashed an effort over the bar, Keane fizzed a right-foot shot goalwards, but watched Hans-Jörg Butt tip it wide, and United substitute Diego Forlán watched in horror as his last-gasp lob was headed off the line by Diego Placente.
Groans of disbelief filled the stadium when the fourth official indicated four minutes of injury time, but despite intense United pressure, Leverkusen held out for a famous victory, and those groans soon turned to roars of delight.
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