The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

UEFA Champions League: Man United score 2 late goals to win 2-1 at Juventus

Associated Press Wednesday, 7 November 2018, 23:48 Last update: about 11 months ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Two late goals gave Manchester United a surprising 2-1 victory at Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday despite Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a stunning opener against his former club.

Juan Mata leveled with a free kick four minutes from time and Alex Sandro netted an own goal in the final minute as United blew Group H wide open.

Juventus, which was the only team in the Champions League still with a perfect record, remained top of Group H but is only two points ahead of United. Valencia, which earlier beat Young Boys 3-1, is two points further back.


United played better than it did when the two sides met in Manchester, where it was somewhat fortunate to only lose 1-0, but Juventus had a number of opportunities and had already hit the woodwork twice before Ronaldo struck in the 65th minute.

Leonardo Bonucci floated a ball over the top of the defense and Ronaldo watched it over his shoulder before volleying into the top right corner.

The Portugal superstar immediately ran to the corner flag, lifted up his shirt and pointed at his impressive stomach muscles.

Ronaldo is the all-time record scorer in the Champions League with 121 goals, but this was his first in the competition for Juventus — although he missed one match through suspension after his red card against Valencia.

Juventus coach Massimiliamo Allegri raised his eyebrows and gave a smile of appreciation at the goal.

Juventus seemed certain to be heading for all three points, with United struggling to carve out clear-cut scoring opportunities, but Mata hit a free kick into the top left corner in the 86th minute and that seemed to inspire Jose Mourinho's side.

Minutes later, Marouane Fellaini flicked on a free kick and the ball ricocheted around near the far post before going in off Juventus defender Alex Sandro.

Mourinho then drew the ire of Juventus players as he cupped his ear to crowd after the final whistle.


Sterling earns farcical penalty, Man City wins 6-0 in CL

Raheem Sterling went from the farcical to the sublime in helping Manchester City to a 6-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk and the brink of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage on Wednesday.

The England winger provided the main talking point in another convincing victory for City when he stubbed his toe in the turf as he attempted a shot in the 24th minute and toppled over. Referee Viktor Kassai awarded a penalty despite there being no contact with a defender — much to the amazement of Shakhtar's players, some of whom even laughed at the decision — and Gabriel Jesus converted the spot kick for 2-0 and the first of his three goals on the night.

"We don't like to score a goal in that situation," City manager Pep Guardiola said. "It was really clear."

Sterling showed much more poise in scoring City's third goal, by picking up the ball 40 meters out, powering through two would-be tacklers and curling a fierce shot into the top corner from the edge of the area in the 48th. It was the run and finish of a man in form, with Sterling having scored twice in the Premier League this past weekend as well.

Jesus made it 4-0 in the 72nd, again from the penalty spot after David Silva was tripped by Taras Stepanenko, before Riyad Mahrez and Jesus — with a goal that completed his hat trick — wrapped up the scoring. Silva had put City 1-0 ahead with a close-range finish in the 13th.

City stayed in first place in Group F, but moved three points ahead of Lyon after the French club drew 2-2 against Hoffenheim. The English champions need one more point from their last two games to be certain of a top-two finish.

After City's latest attacking masterclass, it was the penalty decision — given by a referee who has officiated in a Champions League final and in World Cups — that will best be remembered. It led to Sterling trending worldwide on social media.

It was so obvious that Sterling tripped himself over, rather than being fouled by chasing Shakhtar defender Mykola Matvyenko, that Guardiola covered his face with his hands after the incident before wagging his finger toward his own bench , indicating the penalty should not have been awarded. Sergio Aguero, a substitute sitting just in front of Guardiola, had a smile on his face.

The official behind the goal — used in UEFA-run competitions instead of a video assistant referee — appeared to have a good view of the trip but somehow didn't spot it.

"The referees, I said a long time ago, must be helped," Guardiola said. "They want to make a good performance, they don't want to make mistakes. But today the game is quick, fast; the players are more skilled.

"It takes three seconds, four seconds, 10 seconds, for someone involved to say it's no penalty, carry on."

Sterling looked slightly sheepish as he walked away from the spot where he fell, and didn't tell the referee there had been no contact from an opponent.

Asked if Sterling could have owned up, Guardiola said "he could do that, yes" before pointing to a goal City had wrongly disallowed in the second leg of last season's quarterfinal against Liverpool.

City has scored 23 goals in its last six games in all competitions, heading into a derby against Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.


Bayern beats AEK Athens 2-0 to move closer to knockout stage

Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Bayern Munich to beat AEK Athens 2-0 on Wednesday and move even closer to the Champions League knockout stage.

The Polish striker opened the scoring with a penalty in the first half and sealed the win in the second after a Bayern corner.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy but we've taken a good step forward," said Lewandowski, who was already looking ahead to Saturday's game at Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund. "We had the game in control for the decisive moments. So a win is good for confidence."

The home side had struggled to create any chances of note until Serbian defender Uros Cosic was penalized for pulling Lewandowski back before the half-hour mark, and Lewandowski scored from the spot.

Bayern dominated possession and Lewandowski grabbed his fourth Champions League goal of the season after a corner from Joshua Kimmich with just under 20 minutes remaining.

With 10 points from four games, Bayern is top of Group E.

"We deserved to win, I'm satisfied with the result," said Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who is under pressure after a series of lackluster results. "There were no fireworks, but we have 10 points, it looks good."

Ajax, which drew at Benfica 1-1 in the other group game on Wednesday, is second on eight points with two games remaining, followed by Benfica on four. AEK is last after four defeats.


Valencia wins to stay in contention in Champions League

Valencia ended its winless drought at home with a 3-1 victory over Young Boys 3-1 on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Santi Mina scored twice in the first half and Carlos Soler added a goal after halftime to give the Spanish club its first win in seven matches at its Mestalla Stadium.

The victory — Valencia's third overall this season — left the team with five points in Group H, one more than Manchester United ahead of the English club's match at Juventus later Wednesday. Swiss champion Young Boys, making its debut in the group stage, stayed on one point in last place.

The Swiss side played a man down from the 77th minute as Sekou Sanogo was sent off with a straight red card for a dangerous sliding tackle on Valencia midfielder Francis Coquelin.

Young Boys held Valencia to a 1-1 draw in Bern two weeks ago.

Mina opened the scoring from close range in the 14th after an angled shot by Soler hit the post. Young Boys equalized with a low strike by Roger Assale in the 37th, but Mina put the hosts ahead again after a right-side cross by Soler in the 42nd.

Soler scored the third on a breakaway in the 56th, sending a low shot into the far corner.

Despite entering the season with high expectations after a fourth-place finish in the Spanish league, Valencia has had a disappointing campaign so far.

It has drawn 10 of its 16 matches, with three wins and three losses. It is 15th in the Spanish league standings, two points away from the relegation zone after 11 matches.

This was the first time that Valencia scored more than two goals in a game this season.

Young Boys made it to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time this season after ending a 32-year wait for a Swiss league title.


Pellegrini shines as Roma beats CSKA 3-1 in Champions League

With Edin Dzeko having an off night, Lorenzo Pellegrini stepped up for Roma in the Champions League.

The Italy midfielder scored one goal and set up another as Roma beat 10-man CSKA Moscow 2-1 on Wednesday.

Since losing its opening group game 3-0 to Real Madrid, Roma has won three in a row and only needs one more victory to put qualification for the knockout stages beyond doubt. Madrid plays Plzen in Group G's other game later Wednesday.

Despite the win, Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco said his team's performance wasn't good enough.

"After all, we reached the semifinals last year. We need to get our wins with more confidence and that's how I want to improve the team," he said through a translator.

The Italian team started fast with Kostas Manolas heading in the fourth-minute opener from Pellegrini's curling corner.

After beating Madrid at home last month, CSKA's young team showed a similar tenacious spirit to level the game at 1-1 in the 51st, the 20-year-old Ilzat Akhmetov sending a pass through the Roma defense for 19-year-old Arnor Sigurdsson to hold off two defenders and score with a calm finish.

However, the game changed when CSKA lost its other Icelander, defender Hordur Magnusson, to a second yellow card and Pellegrini pounced for his first Champions League goal.

Three minutes after the sending-off, Pellegrini took advantage of the disarray in CSKA's defense to beat the offside trap, latching onto Bryan Cristante's pass before shooting past goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

"We needed to see the game out when we were in a winning position," di Francesco said. "I'm not happy that the players relaxed a bit and I always demand they give 100 percent concentration."

Dzeko came into the game as the Champions League's top scorer with five goals but his finishing against CSKA was wayward. At one point he dodged two CSKA defenders with excellent footwork only to send the ball straight at goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

CSKA is third in the group with four points from four games and has won just one of its last seven games since beating Madrid. CSKA hasn't gone past the group stage since 2011-12.

"We played a bit adventurously in defense at times, you could say," said CSKA coach Viktor Goncharenko, but paid tribute to his young team's courage as the underdog. CSKA suffered a blow when right-back Mario Fernandes was forced off in the 12th minute after taking a blow to the head during a tackle.

"According to the information we have it could be a concussion along with a broken cheekbone and nose, all together," Goncharenko said. If confirmed, it would be the third time the Brazilian-born Russia player has broken his nose since 2015, and last year a serious break forced him to miss the Confederations Cup.


Madrid routs Plzen, keeps thriving under coach Solari

Karim Benzema scored twice in the first half to lead resurgent Real Madrid to a 5-0 win at Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos also scored for the three-time defending champions, who have won three straight in all competitions since Julen Lopetegui was fired and interim coach Santiago Solari took over.

The victory puts Madrid level on nine points with Roma, which won 2-1 at CSKA Moscow earlier Wednesday.

Madrid and Roma can both seal a place in the knockout stage with one win from their final two games.

Czech champion Viktoria Plzen, playing in the group stage for the first time since 2013, stayed on one point and was eliminated.

Madrid had struggled in a 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen at home in the team's second-to-last match under Lopetegui, who was eventually fired after a demoralizing 5-1 loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium.

Madrid has outscored opponents 11-0 with former player Solari. The Spanish team lost five of its last seven matches with Lopetegui, conceding 13 goals and scoring four.

The Czech hosts started well and almost opened the scoring when Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez deflected a ball onto the crossbar.

Madrid struggled to control the game until Benzema's superb goal in the 21st minute. The French striker entered the area and cleared three defenders before sending a low shot underneath goalkeeper Ales Hruska.

It got better still for Madrid when Casemiro, in his 50th Champions League appearance, added to the lead two minutes later with a header from a corner. Benzema netted his second goal with a header after being set up by Gareth Bale, and the Wales forward found the net in the 40th from inside the area. Kroos closed the scoring with a second-half lob over Hruska after a pass by substitute Vinicius Junior.

Solari, a former Argentina and Madrid midfielder, was announced as an interim coach but hasn't been ruled out as a candidate for the permanent coaching position. Former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez were touted as possible replacements for Lopetegui, but talks about them faded significantly after Solari put the team back on track.

Madrid routed third-division club Melilla 4-0 in Solari's debut, then defeated Valladolid to halt the team's five-match winless streak in the Spanish league.

Solari left Luka Modric on the bench on Wednesday, starting with Dani Ceballos in midfield along with Kroos and Casemiro. In attack, he used Lucas Vazquez to play with Benzema and Bale.


Lyon held to draw by 10-man Hoffenheim in Champions League

Pavel Kaderabek scored in stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw for 10-man Hoffenheim at Lyon on Wednesday and keep alive a glimmer of hope for the German club in the tournament.

With Manchester City thrashing Shakhtar Donetsk 6-0 in Group F's other game, a loss would have put Hoffenheim out of contention. But Kaderabek, a Czech international, put the teams level with a simple finish from a free kick two minutes into added time after being left unmarked at the far post.

Lyon would have taken a big step toward the knockout phase with a win but wasted a two-goal lead and could not take advantage of Kasim Adams Nuhu's sending off in the 51st minute following a second yellow card for a foul on Nabil Fekir.

City leads the group with nine points, three more than Lyon. Hoffenheim is in third place with three points ahead of Shakhtar on two.

Fekir and Tanguy Ndombele scored first-half goals for the seven-time French champions before Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric pulled one back after the interval for Hoffenheim.

Lyon coach Bruno Genesio experimented with a new system, playing with three center-halves for the first time this season. But his players struggled to adapt to the strategic move and the visitors dominated early exchanges.

They camped in Lyon's half for prolonged periods until defender Ferland Mendy hit the woodwork in the 19th minute with a powerful shot from the edge of the area.

Fekir recovered the ball from the rebound but could not beat keeper Oliver Baumann, who denied an effort from Tanguy Ndombele straight afterward. A scramble in the box followed and resulted in Fekir founding the net from close range with his right foot in the 20th minute.

Hoffenheim had an excellent chance to level nearly immediately but Anthony Lopes made a terrific save to deny a point-blank strike from Ishak Belfodil from a corner.

With the momentum gone, Hoffenheim went two goals down in the 28th minute as Ndombele connected with a cut-back pass from Mendy just inside the box at the end of a fast move and rifled a shot that took a deflection and wrongfooted Baumann.

Kramaric scored in the 65th minute with a fine shot from outside the box before Kaderabek came to the German club's rescue in added time.


Ajax holds Benfica to 1-1 draw in Champions League

Dusan Tadic scored a second-half equalizer as Ajax held Benfica to a 1-1 draw in the Champions League on Wednesday, keeping a comfortable four-point cushion to the Portuguese side in Group E.

Ajax is two points behind Bayern Munich, which defeated AEK Athens at home to stay atop the group after four matches.

Benfica took the lead with a goal by forward Jonas in the 29th minute, but Tadic equalized in the 61st after getting past the goalkeeper and sending the ball into the net from a tough angle.

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