LONDON, April 7- Wayne Rooney scored the only goal as Manchester United put one foot in the semi-finals of the Champions League Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea.
Rooney — who has been at the centre of a furore over his foul-mouthed tirade at a television camera last weekend — shrugged off the controversy to fire United ahead on 24 minutes.
The victory was United’s first over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 2002 and left Sir Alex Ferguson’s side firm favourites to progress from the quarter-finals ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg at Old Trafford.
But the defeat has left Chelsea with a daunting task if they are to achieve their dream of winning the only piece of silverware that has eluded them since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s 2003 takeover of the club.
Only twice before in the Champions League knockout rounds has a team recovered from losing a first leg match at home to advance to the next round.
The match ended in controversy as Chelsea were denied a clear penalty after Patrice Evra brought down Ramires in the area in injury time.
A scrappy first half saw both sides struggle to establish dominance early on, 50 million pounds signing Fernando Torres testing United keeper Edwin van der Sar with a low shot after only seven minutes.
Chelsea’s early pressure almost resulted in a goal on 19 minutes when clever play released Didier Drogba inside the penalty area.
The Ivorian striker’s shot was firm but van der Sar was equal to the challenge, tipping over for a corner.
United meanwhile appeared happy to soak up the pressure and look for openings on the break, and on 24 minutes they took the lead with their first meaningful foray into Chelsea territory.
Michael Carrick swung a pass out to the right flank and the evergreen Ryan Giggs, 37, roared up on the left flank to beat Jose Bosingwa on the outside before cutting back to Rooney, whose low shot went in off the post.
The goal stunned Chelsea and for much of the remainder of the half they looked out of sorts against an increasingly composed United.
Torres gave United a brief scare on 35 minutes when he raced into the area and tumbled over under pressure from Vidic, but Spanish referee Alberto Undiano was unimpressed with half-hearted appeals for a penalty.
Moments later United boss Ferguson was off his bench in protest after young striker Javier Hernandez was flattened by a high boot from Chelsea fullback Yuri Zhirkov, who was booked for the challenge.
Yet as half-time neared Chelsea began to trouble United, and should have levelled when a cross from Drogba came back off the post and fell to Frank Lampard, whose close-range shot was cleared off the line by Evra.
Chelsea enjoyed the better chances of the second half, Ramires heading wide on 50 minutes after good work by Drogba down the right.
An overhead kick from Drogba went wide on 57 minutes, but United rarely looked in difficulty despite Chelsea’s territorial dominance.
A fractious encounter saw referee Undiano brandish his yellow card with regularity, Ramires and Essien both getting booked.
Chelsea thought they had equalised on 74 minutes when Torres guided a fine header to the back post but van der Sar pulled off a wonderful save to preserve United’s lead.
As injury time wound down Chelsea had loud appeals for a penalty waved away after Evra brought down Ramires, but Undiano was unimpressed.
To add insult to injury, Torres was then booked for diving after going over too easily in the penalty area.