Sport Champions League

Friday 23 March 2018

Anderson leveller bags top spot for Red Devils

Manchester Utd 1
Valencia 1

Valencia's Pablo Hernandez scores the opening goal at Old Trafford
Valencia's Pablo Hernandez scores the opening goal at Old Trafford

Henry Winter at old trafford

On a night so cold even the officials wore tights, Manchester United were grateful to a tough boy from Brazil, Anderson, who eschewed gloves, snood and long sleeves, to make sure Alex Ferguson's side enter the knockout stages as Group C winners.

If Anderson took the limelight for his second-half finish, many of the plaudits should go to Wayne Rooney, comfortably Man of the Match for his passing, movement, technique and willingness to track back to assist midfield and, occasionally, defence.

The tie was also notable for the worrying sight of Rio Ferdinand being substituted in the second half, the centre-back heading straight down the tunnel. Chris Smalling came on and did well enough, but United will not want to be without Ferdinand for the forthcoming Premier League games against Arsenal and Chelsea.

A little bit of history was made later on when Ryan Giggs arrived for his 850th appearance.

Even before Pablo Hernandez struck after 32 minutes, United had suffered scares, beginning with Aritz Aduriz and Alejandro Dominguez slicing through the middle until Rafael intervened. Ricardo Costa then headed just wide.

The alarm bells ringing, United awoke. Soon they were driving through the centre, the excellent Rooney weighting a wonderful return pass into the path of Anderson, who placed his low shot too close to goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Finishing top or second really meant little to Valencia as they could not be drawn against their fellow La Liga sides, Barcelona and Real Madrid on December 17. Yet they buzzed with purpose.

Dominguez almost beat Ben Amos with a near-post strike. Amos's presence was a surprise, the 20-year-old making only his third appearance 24 hours after Ferguson claimed he would start his "first-choice" team.

For all the Spaniard's incipient menace, United should have scored midway through the half from a series of high-speed raids.

Moments after wasting a gift from Ever Banega, Dimitar Berbatov was offered another chance, this time engineered by Rooney and Anderson, who linked up effortlessly 30 yards out.

The Brazilian sent Berbatov through, the Bulgarian racing at Guaita. As Berbatov shaped to go left, Valencia's keeper dived in and flicked the ball clear. It rebounded off Berbatov's foot before careering away for a goal-kick.


As the game nudged past the half-hour mark, and the mercury dropped lower, Carrick's uncertainty in midfield was exposed. Turning into traffic, Carrick lost the ball to Dominguez, who darted through the middle.

Drawing Vidic, the Argentine slipped it to Hernandez, whose first touch teed the ball up perfectly. With Amos running out to close the angle, Hernandez calmly drove it between the keeper's legs and in. Rooney sought to ride to the rescue of Carrick and United.

He almost delivered the perfect riposte, turning 30 yards out and lifting a magnificent chip over the heads of Valencia's defence, and over Guaita, but the bar intervened. Nani was quickest to the loose ball, but he shot just wide.

If the half concluded in more frustration, a booking for Anderson following a challenge on Jordi Alba, hope still rose because of Rooney. Clearly sharpened by his spell in Oregon, Rooney showed an impressive burst of pace to whisk the ball away from Jeremy Mathieu, Valencia's left-back.

Rooney's return to form was also evident after the break. Turning on the left, he clipped a ball in towards Berbatov, who angled a header just wide.

United then suffered another blow when Ferdinand limped off, bringing the promising Smalling on. Still Valencia threatened, Aduriz testing Amos. Still Rooney was United's best avenue of hope, taking Park's pass, swivelling and shooting just wide.

United's pressure was building. Just after the hour mark, Rafael charged from the deep, slipping the ball wide to Park. When Guaita failed to deal properly with the South Korean's shot, Anderson charged in to sweep the loose ball home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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