Heinze and Neville's barricade keeps Chelsea's wolves at bay

Chelsea 0 - Manchester United 0
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Another cup tie, another goalless draw but Manchester United were far happier after last night's Carling Cup semi-final than after their weekend FA Cup tie against non-League Exeter City.

Another cup tie, another goalless draw but Manchester United were far happier after last night's Carling Cup semi-final than after their weekend FA Cup tie against non-League Exeter City.

United needed two goal-line clearances, from Gabriel Heinze and Phil Neville, to secure this draw but should have had a penalty and were otherwise worthy of the result. The identity of the Millennium Stadium finalists remains in the balance, however, as Chelsea will approach the second leg comforted by the knowledge that they have a good record at Old Trafford.

Though United faced the Premiership leaders with a far more recognisable XI than the team held by Exeter, it was still the low-tar version rather than the full strength. Only four of the team were first choices, though, when injuries were taken into account, Sir Alex Ferguson had picked seven of his best available XI. Of the absentees, Paul Scholes and Alan Smith were on the bench, and Roy Keane and Roy Carroll rested before Saturday's trip to Anfield.

With Ricardo Carvalho injured and Arjen Robben suspended, Chelsea only omitted Petr Cech from their best possible XI. The home side should have scored quickly. Frank Lampard launched a long ball forward, Mikaël Silvestre and John O'Shea were both sucked under it and Silvestre could only head the ball up into the air. It fell to Joe Cole, in space eight yards out, but he miskicked.

United responded well, pushing forward and twice claiming penalties. Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have slipped when John Terry tackled him after 12 minutes, but, three minutes earlier, it seemed that Louis Saha was tripped by Tiago as he sought to go between the Portuguese midfielder and Paulo Ferreira.

In between, Damien Duff had shot just wide of Tim Howard's far post and Lampard later headed a Ferreira cross past the same upright. But the best chance of the first half-hour fell to Saha. Given a free header from Wayne Rooney's 14th-minute corner, the Frenchman, perhaps showing his rustiness having not played since November, headed weakly wide.

Chelsea are usually a powerful team in the air, but, as the interval neared, United again went close with a header. Darren Fletcher swung a ball in from the right and Rooney twisted to send a glancing header goalwards. Cudicini, showing the quality that will attract suitors in this transfer window, stretched to touch the ball past the near post.

United could be happy with their first-half display but the break seemed to invigorate Chelsea more. Immediately after it Lampard wriggled into the penalty area, side-stepped O'Shea, and slid the ball past Howard. Seemingly from nowhere, Heinze appeared to scythe the ball off the line. Chelsea continued to press and Heinze was booked for fouling Didier Drogba, who had arrived at the interval. From the squared free-kick the Ivory Coast striker drew a good save from Howard with a deflected shot. Drogba, who had made a startling impact, next rose to flick on Wayne Bridge's long ball, enabling Lampard to volley a 30-yard shot just wide.

Chelsea had stepped up a gear and the Bridge responded filling the air with chants of "Chelsea" and the "Ten men went to mow" anthem. Ferguson, too, reacted. On came Paul Scholes to stiffen the resistance. Eric Djemba-Djemba, who had faded after a bright start, was withdrawn.

Scholes gave United a measure of midfield control with his ability to rotate possession slowing Chelsea's momentum. Jose Mourinho, never one to stand idly by when a managerial opponent makes changes, brought on Mateja Kezman for Tiago, Cole dropping into midfield. A game which had been open and end-to-end was gradually becoming bogged down in midfield.

Cole's move had made little difference and Jiri Jarosik, the new signing from CSKA Moscow, came on for his second Chelsea appearance. Within eight minutes the Czech came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock as he met Duff's corner at the far post with a low shot that Phil Neville and Howard together scrambled off the line and over the bar.

The goalmouth action was over, but there was time enough for a flare-up to add spice to the second leg as Ronaldo and Drogba clashed as the ball went out for a throw-in. A dozen players rushed in but when they were eventually separated, largely through the aid of stewards, Neale Barry settled for booking Ronaldo and Drogba. The latter was the more guilty party, also putting a hand to the throat of Quinton Fortune who, a few minutes earlier, had caught him with a high tackle. The once moribund Football League Cup can expect a rousing night on 26 January.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Tiago (Kezman, 65), Makelele, Lampard; Cole (Jarosik, 76), Gudjohnsen (Drogba, h-t), Duff. Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Johnson.

Manchester United (4-3-3): Howard; P Neville, O'Shea, Silvestre, Heinze; Fletcher, Djemba-Djemba (Scholes, 65), Fortune; Ronaldo (Smith, 89), Saha, Rooney. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Miller, Spector.

Referee: N Barry (Lincolnshire).

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