Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSKA 0-1 Manchester United

Manchester United maintained their 100 per cent record in Champions League Group B with a well-deserved 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium.
United controlled much of the match, but they left it late to take all three points, Antonio Valencia swooping to confirm their dominance with just four minutes remaining.
The result means Alex Ferguson's side are five points clear at the top of the table, after Wolfsburg had to settle for a goalless draw against Besiktas. United can now seal qualification from the group stage with a point against CSKA back at Old Trafford in a fortnight.
Pre-match talk centred on how the visitors would cope with the Luzhniki's infamous plastic pitch and as expected the ball bounced higher and held up more than usual.
The result was a cagey opening period during which chances were few and far between, but the synthetic turf did not appear to give either side a clear advantage.
United edged possession early on and Paul Scholes went closest to breaking the deadlock after 25 minutes, the veteran midfielder cleverly unleashing a shot from 30 yards out that bounced awkwardly just in front of Igor Akinfeev. The CSKA keeper had to be alert to make an effective, if ungainly, save.
Fabio Da Silva, playing at left-back in the absence of the injured Patrice Evra, impressed with his attacking play, and the Brazilian was keen to support Nani down the left hand side at every opportunity.
Nani, meanwhile, was also busy and United's only other real chance of the first half came from one of the many crosses he put into the CSKA penalty area. This one eventually fell to Gary Neville, who sent a measured side-footer just over the bar on 37 minutes.

At the other end, a Tomas Necid header preceded a cross-shot from the dangerous Milos Krasic and an Alan Dzagoyev free-kick that caused panic in the United box, but otherwise United's back line was not troubled, even though Nemanja Vidic looked uncertain on occasion.
After the break Vidic lost his central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand, who was taken off as a precautionary measure with one eye on Sunday's big clash against Liverpool.
But with United upping their game in the second half, much of the action took place at the other end and Wes Brown, Ferdinand's replacement, was comfortable for the remainder of the evening.
Just once did CSKA threaten to get on the scoresheet, when Sergei Ignashevich nearly prodded home a dangerous free-kick after 64 minutes.
But otherwise, United controlled the game during the second half and the only thing lacking from their play, until the later stages, was a final product, although they came close to finding one on several occasions.
Nani was denied a diving header on the hour mark by an excellent save from Akinfeev before the CSKA skipper raced off his line to smother at the Portuguese's feet seven minutes later.
Michael Owen was introduced with just under 20 minutes remaining in the hope the striker could make a breakthrough, although the striker failed to make a difference, swinging and missing at his best chance with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Valencia fared better and the Ecuadorian rattled the frame of the goal with a superb strike following a neat passing move from United, again involving Nani, on 82 minutes.
Four minutes later, United's pressure eventually told as Valecnia settled the match, lashing past Akinfeev from Dimitar Berbatov's flick on to give United their first victory over Russian opponents in UEFA competitions.

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