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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Riise's pain after Champions League own goal

After the unforgettable mistake, Liverpool defender John Arne Riise has admitted his misery at the own goal which threatens to derail his side's Champions League challenge.

In fact, Riise is still coming to terms with the impact of his blunder after he headed into his own net in the last minute of stoppage time to gift Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the semi-final first leg at Anfield.

The Red team face a mammoth task to reach the final now but Riise is determined to help the Reds bounce back at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday.

"What can I say? I'm ashamed and devastated. Sometimes you experience these kind of things and for defenders it happens from time to time. Now it has happened to me," he expressed.

"In fact, I know how strong I am mentally, and what really matters is how you recover. I've experienced tougher things and I know I will learn from this.

"I'm very disappointed, but I won't go around and hang my head. I have to use this as something positive and learn from it."

The Norway footballer, who also scored an own goal against Luton in the FA Cup this season, was so down he didn't even speak to his brother in the aftermath of Tuesday's game.

Indeed, Bjorn Helge Riise, who plays for Lillestrom, let us know: "I tried getting in contact with John Arne after the encounter.

"Eventually he sent me back a sms saying, 'I don't want to speak. I'm so disappointed. Give me a call back in a couple of days and we'll speak then'."

We must consider that Riise's future at Anfield was already far from certain before his gaffe and the defender admitted his hopes of earning an extension to his current contract, which runs out next year, were hardly improved on Tuesday.

Despite that, Riise is likely to start in the return against Chelsea after Fabio Aurelio was ruled out and Benitez expressed: "I have talked with John and told him not to keep thinking about the own goal all of the time. He must come back and be ready.

"I know he is really down, but the only way to change the situation is to score in the right net at Stamford Bridge. He knows that Fabio is injured, so he knows he will get his chances again. He has played so well for this club, so for that to happen in the last seconds is the worst thing possible."

"Of course we have tried to analyse what happened. Mascherano could have stopped the cross, but when you are left-footed like John, the problem was whether he used his right foot to clear. That was the real point. I prefer to think like this: if Riise scores the winning goal that will be perfect for us."

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty shot in Manchester United goalless draw with Barcelona

The favorite Manchester United blunted a inefficient Barcelona's attack to earn a 0-0 away draw in the opening encounter of their two-match Champions League semifinal.

Barcelona FC was last night held to a scoreless draw at the Camp Nou stadium for the first time in this season's tournament as the English champion frustrated an opponent that had almost two-thirds of the possession and three times as many direct shots.

"Although they had a lot of play on the edge of our box, they didn't have many chances," United manager sir Alex Ferguson expressed. "Going back to Old Trafford for the second leg nil-nil gives us a marvelous opportunity."

In fact, Manchester United will advance to the May 21 final in Moscow against Chelsea or Liverpool with a victory in next week's return match in Manchester, where it's on an 11-game winning streak in Europe's elite club tournament.

Alex Ferguson's side failed to seize the initiative in the third minute when Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty kick, awarded when the ball struck Gabriel Milito's arm in the area.

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who's scored a tournament- leading 7 goals this season, side-footed wide from the spot in front of about 95,000 spectators at the stadium where United won its second European Cup title in 1999.

"The penalty was a big moment," blaugrana boss Frank Rijkaard admitted. "It's still open. Scoring one goal over there could be very important."

As we saw, Samuel Eto'o had several shots and Gianluca Zambrotta, Xavi Hernandez and Thierry Henry also tested Man. United goalie Edwin van der Sar.

Cristiano Ronaldo was United's main threat on the counterattack as Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez struggled to break out of their own half.

"I don't think we were fast enough, direct enough and we lost the ball just too much," Ferguson analized and concluded. "We usually play better but we had to defend more. We'll definitely attack more in the second leg."