Manchester United top group despite being held by Valencia
Manchester United secured top spot in Group C of the Champions League despite drawing with Valencia at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were looking to become the first team in the competition’s history to complete the group stage without conceding a goal, but the La Liga side capitalised on a mistake by Michael Carrick after 31 minutes to take the lead and end United’s chance of making history.
Carrick was caught dawdling in possession inside his own half by Alejandro DomÃƒÂnguez, who ran at the United defence and slotted in Pablo HernÃƒÂ¡ndez for him to smash the ball past 20-year-old Ben Amos -a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up -from 10 yards out.
Anderson, who was United’s star player on the night and deserved a goal for his energetic and combative performance, scored his first goal at Old Trafford to bring the home side level after 61 minutes.
Rafael surged in-field from the right and switched the ball over to Ji Sung Park who unleashed a thunderous shot from outside the area that Vicente Guita was unable to hold on to in the Valencia goal. Anderson then smashed home the rebound from six yards out.
In an open contest in which both teams had plenty of opportunities there could have easily have been more goals.
Anderson should have open the scoring in the 14th minute after Wayne Rooney -who also showed signs that he is recapturing his best form -slotted him through, but his timid sidefoot was easily saved by Guita.
Six minutes later Rooney and Anderson combined to send Dimitar Berbatov -who endured a frustrating night and has now not scored in 18 Champions League games -through but the Bulgarian never looked confident. He tried to round Guita only to lose control of the ball for a goal-kick.
After some great play on the left Rooney crossed for Park who on the stretch could only direct his volley into the hands of the ever-busy Guita.
Moments later Valencia made United pay for their wastefulness when Dominguez finished neatly after Carrick’s mistake.
Rooney then reminded the home crowd of what he is capable of when his curled effort from the left hand side of the box looked like it was looping in, only for it to hit the bar before Nani dragged his snap shot wide.
The second half continued in much the same vein as United dominated possession but failed to take their chances and get that elusive equaliser.
Berbatov thought he had ended his Champions League drought in the 55th minute but his volley was ruled out for offside.
Soon after Rooney’s turn and shot went just wide and 30 seconds later his rasping effort from 30 yards was punched away by Guita. But the home side’s relentless pressure finally paid dividends when Anderson followed in Park’s shot to level the game.
Both teams continued to look for a winner but United managed to hold out for the draw and top the group. They will now avoid European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the last 16 stage.
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