European champions Manchester United will meet compatriots Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals after both sides celebrated victories on Wednesday. The two teams will commence their continental rivalry at Old Trafford on 28 April before disputing the second leg at the Emirates Stadium on 5 May. In the other last-four encounter, Barcelona will host Chelsea at Camp Nou on 29 April and attempt to book a berth in the final in the second leg at Stamford Bridge on 6 May.
For the third consecutive year, three English teams will be present in the semi-finals. That suggests a certain stability among Europe's finest clubs and a closer look at the sides involved confirms the impression, with three of last season's semi-finalists back at the same stage again this year. Only Arsenal have proved capable of breaking into the select group, at Liverpool's expense.
Porto 0-1 Manchester United (2-3 on aggregate)
Goal: Cristiano Ronaldo 6 (United)
Stunned near the start by a long-range effort from Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo, Jesualdo Ferreira's men took several minutes before forcing their way back into the game. Just as they began to settle, however, they lost their captain and midfield orchestrator Lucho Gonzalez to an unprovoked injury.
Far from admitting defeat, Porto's exciting forwards soon began making nuisances of themselves, yet they found it much harder to trouble United's rearguard with Rio Ferdinand fit enough to feature again. Aside from a Lisandro Lopez volley well stopped by Edwin van der Sar, the Portuguese outfit seldom appeared dangerous and often left themselves open to United counterattacks. In the end, the hosts were helpless to avoid suffering their first ever home loss to an English outfit in Champions League history.
The key player
Not for the first time, Ronaldo emerged as the crucial player for United, making the difference in a match in which he displayed admirable humility, refusing to celebrate too vociferously on native Portuguese soil. His stunning intervention came as early as the sixth minute, when, finding himself in possession and without a defender in sight, the 24-year-old quickly unleashed a fearsome right-footed effort from 35 metres out that sailed into the far corner of the net.
The turning point
Ronaldo's early goal completely altered the face of the tie, wrenching the advantage back from the Portuguese Liga leaders after their 2-2 draw at Old Trafford last week. Porto needed to find the back of the net at least once all of a sudden and they attempted to play a more attacking game after setting themselves out to move forward on the break. Making that transition took time and their supporters had to wait until the 23rd minute to witness their first shot on target.
Contesting their tenth Champions League quarter-final, United extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 23 matches.
Arsenal raced out of the blocks against their talented rivals, whose timid showing had much to do with injuries to Spanish internationals Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna. The Yellow Submarine finally began to pose a threat early in the second half, but their insistence on attacking through the middle failed to pay dividends, despite the home side having been forced to field a makeshift rearguard following a series of injury withdrawals.
At the other end, meanwhile, Emmanuel Adebayor made them suffer with a smart finish, before Robin van Persie effectively ended the tie from the penalty spot following Diego Godin's foul on Theo Walcott. A red card for Uruguayan midfielder Sebastian Eguren merely increased the likelihood that the Gunners would emerge unscathed.
The key player
Adebayor posed Villarreal problems throughout the entire encounter, keeping defenders occupied and keeping himself barely onside before demonstrating impressive calm to get his name on the scoresheet with the outside of his boot following an excellent pass from partner-in-crime Van Persie.
The turning point
The complexion of the tie began to change as early as the tenth minute, Emmanuel Eboue initiating an attack with a long through ball flicked beyond the visitors' defence with impressive speed of thought by Cesc Fabregas. Walcott collected the pass and lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Diego Lopez with supreme ease, thus forcing Manuel Pellegrini's troops to chase the game.
Arsenal are a fearsome proposition in north London, particularly in European competition, and have now gone 24 Champions League games unbeaten on home soil. Likewise, Arsene Wenger's young side have yet to lose a home Champions League fixture since moving into the Emirates Stadium, recording 12 wins and five draws.