CSKA Moscow 0-1 Manchester United: Persistence Pays Off As Late Valencia Strike Seals Victory
Valencia’s late goal maintains Red devil’s perfect start.
An Antonio Valencia halfvolley five minutes from time was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for Mancester United at CSKA Moscow as they returned to the scene of their Champions League triumph back in 2008.
Nemanja Vidic looked shaky during the early stages of the match, and on five minutes his Sloppy play in the middle of United’s half presented Milos Krasic with an opportunity to attack. The midfielder proceeded by dummying Rio Ferdinand, but unfortunately for CSKA his struck effort from the edge of the box lofted shot wildly over van der Sar’s goal.
Igor Akinfeev, relatively untroubled thus far in the half, demonstrated a moment of uncertainty on the quarter-hour mark as the Russian goalkeeper flapped unimpressively a deep cross from Fabio Da Silva.
Brazilian midfielder Anderson, under much scrutiny so far this season attempted to impress his manager a fans with a free kick on 25 minutes, but his tame effort made easy picking for Akinfeev.
Moments later, veteran Paul Scholes hit a far more impressive effort. Incorporating the much talked-about artificial surface, Scholes hit a strike from around thirty yards which bounced awkwardly in front of Akinfeev, and the goalkeeper could only parry away nervously.
On the half hour mark, Berezutsky whipped in a cross towards Necid; but the forwards headed attempt was tentative, and van der Sar was able to gather the ball effortlessly.
The best effort of the half surfaced on 38 minutes, but via the most unlikely of sources. Latching onto a Berbatov knock-back after good initial work from Nani down the left flank, United captain Gary Neville hit a curled effort with his weaker left foot, which flew tantalisingly over with Akinfeev grounded.
The first half petered out during the final ten minutes with neither side willing to commit too many players forward, and subsequently the half ended goalless.
With the start of the second half, it was apparent that an increased emphasis and willingness to attack had entered the match, with both sides looking to test their opposing goalkeepers.
United started brightly, dominating the play from the restart. Nani continued to impress down the left wing, and fired in a delightful cross into the box, only to find that there was no-one in Red at the attacking back post.
Rio Ferdinand continued his stuttering start to the season, losing the ball with a misplaced pass which Necid intercepted. The striker opted to hit his strike early, but it was a tame effort that drifted wide of van der Sar’s left post.
With ten minutes played in the second half, the match looked to erupt into life, as two key decisions were made in quick succession. When Berbatov broke into the CSKA box, before going down under pressure, the movements of referee initially indicated that he was about to award United a penalty; but proceeded to book the Bulgarian for simulation.
Moments later, Moscow had the ball in the net, only for the referee to disallow Dzagoev’s goal for offside to relief of Fabio. The young Brazilian gave the ball away to Necid, who found Dzagoev in space, but the midfielder was offside when he applied his finish.
Ferdinand was spared further discomfort when he was removed on 56 minutes and replaced by Wes Brown, with Sir Alex Ferguson no doubt preserving the England centre for the weekends match with Liverpool.
A great save from Akinfeev denied United the opener on 59 minutes, as the away side continued to dominate possession. A superb delivery from Neville picked-out Nani in the box, and the Portuguese winger latched onto to it majestically with a diving header, only for Akinfeev to pull off a world class save, tipping the ball wide at full stretch.
Sir Alex Ferguson looked to capitalise on his sides domination of play, and brought on Michael Owen for the final twenty minutes of the half. The striker missed a glorious chance to put United a goal up on 75 minutes, after great work by Valencia. Finding space inside CSKA’s box, Owen had a golden chance from six yards but failed to make contact with the ball to the dismay of the travelling support.
Valencia almost rewarded United with the lead they deserved when on 81 minutes the lightning quick wizard rattled Akinfeev’s crossbar after a great one-two with Nani.
However, the Ecuadorian was not to be denied for a second time. After more good wing wizardry from Nani, Berbatov’s knocked the ball down to the explosive midfielder, andAntonio Valencia out-paced his marker to fire a half volley past the impressive Igor Akinfeev with less than five minutes remaining on the clock.
United looked to seal the game in the final moments but to no avail. Nevertheless Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted with his sides performance this evening, and more importantly the victory.