Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Manchester United 3-3 Cska Moscow
Manchester United had to come from two goals down to grab a point in a 3-3 draw with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League at Old Trafford.
Antonio Valencia's injury-time leveller was enough to seal United's qualification from Group B after Paul Scholes had pulled a goal back on 84 minutes.
Michael Owen cancelled out Alan Dzagoev's opener but goals by Milos Krasic and Vasily Berezutsky had put the Russian club on course for a famous upset.
United rallied in the closing stages and in the end their never-say-die attitude prevailed, although it was another far from convincing performance from last year's finalists.
Wayne Rooney started on the bench after having become a father earlier in the week, while United were also missing central their first choice defensive partnership Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic through injury.
Wes Brown and Jonny Evans started in their place, with Fabio deputising for Patrice Evra, who started on the bench, at left-back.
CSKA sounded their intent early in an open and entertaining start to the game, with Deividas Semberas firing just wide of the post in the third minute.
But United soon asserted themselves and nearly hit back six minutes later when Valencia made inroads down the right hand side. His cross into the middle found Owen but he could not connect cleanly and a good opportunity to break the deadlock went begging.
Owen was guilty of profligacy in front of goal for a second time on 17 minutes, the summer signing poking a weak shot straight at Igor Akinfeev after having done the hard part by breaking through the visitors' backline.
In between those efforts, Darren Fletcher, returning from injury, saw a fierce drive drift inches wide of the post before Federico Macheda, making his European debut, fizzed a shot inches the wrong side of the upright.
United were on top, as they had been in the game in Moscow a fortnight ago, so it was a shock to their system when Dzagoev opened the scoring with a terrific strike on 25 minutes.
The 19-year-old Russia international lost his marker Wes Brown all too easily before running onto Tomas Necid's chested ball through. He appeared to take it a little too wide, but his shot was angled into the roof of the net and powerful enough leave Edwin Van der Sar rooted to the spot and wondering how he had allowed the ball had beaten him.
Just four minutes later it was third time lucky for Owen as he demonstrated he still has the finishing instinct that once made his name as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. Valencia's cross was back-heeled by Nani - disappointing again - into Owen's path, via a deflection, and the former Liverpool and Real Madrid man did the rest.
But parity was to last just two minutes as Krasic was allowed to run onto Necid's layoff on the edge of the penalty area, round Van der Sar and slot into an empty net.
United rallied as the half drew to a close, Macheda and Paul Scholes both bringing Akinfeev into further action, but the hosts went in at the break trailing 2-1.
That soon became 3-1 as another bit of lapse defending from the hosts allowed Berezutsky to head home a deep free-kick at the far post on 47 minutes. This time Macheda was the guilty party, the young Italian losing his man as the ball was whipped over.
United should have been given a chance to level for a second time just three minutes later, but referee Olegario Benquerenca waved away strong appeals for a penalty as Fletcher was tripped in the box. Replays showed there to have been contact, but the Portuguese official opted to caution the Scot instead of pointing to the spot.
Alex Ferguson brought on Rooney and Evra just before the hour mark and the introduction of the pair gave United an immediate lift.
Rooney glanced a header wide on 63 minutes before he was denied by Akinfeev, who had just saved another effort from Owen.
United continued to press and Macheda nearly pulled one back with a header than thumped the base of the post before Scholes signalled his own personal intent with a rasping drive that stung Akinfeev's fingers.
The midfielder was not to be denied and he found the back of the net from the resulting corner, heading home from close range amid some shockingly lackadaisical CSKA marking.
Buoyed by the goal and lifted by the now vocal crowd, United pushed in search of a late equaliser and it arrived in the second minute of injury time, as Akinfeev was foxed by a hefty deflection on Valencia's shot from the edge of the penalty area.