United 1 Valencia 1: Top Spot Secured

In their decisive, and final, match in Group C, Manchester United fought hard to comeback and draw 1-1 with Valencia at Old Trafford.

The result sees United retain the top spot in the group, and keeps Valencia in second place ahead of the draw for the next round of the UEFA Champions League.

Pablo Hernandez’s goal around the half-hour mark ended United’s streak without conceding in the Champions League, but Anderson canceled that out with his first career goal in the competition.

In the other Group C match, which had no significance on the placements of any of the clubs, Rangers also drew 1-1 with Bursaspor at the Bursa Atatürk Stadi.

Unsurprisingly, Sir Alex Ferguson made wholesale changes from the team that lost 4-0 at West Ham United in the Carling Cup, so he has tinkered with his team for the 150th consecutive match.

The most interesting inclusion was the selection of Ben Amos as the United goalkeeper, which not only affirms the faith Ferguson has in him, but also allow him to be tested in a decisive match.

Ahead of the match, Paul Scholes and Patrice Evra were listed as doubtful, because they did not train with the first-team yesterday, so Anderson makes his third straight appearance in all competitions, and Fabio fills in at left-back.

The first chance of the match came in the fourth minute, when some good interchange between Anderson, Rafael and Nani, and it was the latter who had a very good left-footed shot that had the Valencia ‘keeper scrambling at his near post.

Valencia then had an opportunity a couple of minutes later but Rafael did well to dispossess Alejandro Dominguez in a very dangerous position inside of the United area.

The visitors were given a few chances to get forward following some poor passing, and Ricardo Costa should have tested Ben Amos with his header at the far post.

Ji-Sung Park then burned down the left wing and supplied a cross into the area, but David Albelda did well to beat Dimitar Berbatov to the ball and Costa eventually mopped the United chance.

Following some very good build up play by United, Anderson and Wayne Rooney played a very good one-two, but the Brazilian could not find the pace or power with his shot to beat Vicente Panadero.

Dominguez spotted Amos expecting him to play in a cross, so he blasted a shot toward his near right-hand post, but, thankfully, he did well to gather the tailing shot.

In the 17th minute, Berbatov did well to get inside the box, and with him squared up with Costa, he spotted Park’s run into the box, but he missed hit his chip and it came to no avail.

Dominguez got into another good position, and he again tested Amos at his near post, but his shot clipped the outside of that post and the young ‘keeper breathed a sigh of relief.

Valencia had the ball into the United net, but it came well after the whistle had gone for a foul against Nani, which ruled out the goal.

Berbatov beat the offside trap, and as he bore down on goal, he lost his balance and nerve and he got way too close to the Valencia ‘keeper, and to make matters worse, the ball came back off him and out for a goal kick.

Two minutes later the Bulgarian had another chance to buckle the net, but he again failed to be his marker and Valencia were able to knock the ball out for a corner.

From the ensuing corner, Nani and Anderson combined well to take it short, but, instead of shooting, the United winger had a tame shot which the Valencia shot-stopper collected with ease.

With Valencia pushing far up the field, Anderson beat the offside trap and with teammates waiting for a cross, he decided to shoot with his weaker foot, which failed to make it on target from close range.

Nani then had two bites of the cherry to get a cross in, but the first one was too low and the second was way too high, and Valencia were again let off.

The game began to tail off from its frenetic pace, and it was United who had the next chance, but Rooney’s cross from the left-hand flank did not reach its target.

But moments later, Rooney had another chance to cross the ball from the same position, and this time it was better and found an outstretched Park, but the South Korean could not beat Guaita.

Against the run of play, and under a minute later from that save, Valencia grabbed the first goal against United in this season’s Champions League.

Dominguez was gifted the ball by Michael Carrick, and he drove at the United defenders, and then played a wonderful ball to Pablo, who slipped the ball in between Amos’ legs to give the visitors the lead.

Rooney almost scored an equalizer from out of the top drawer, but Panderio was saved by the crossbar, and Nani’s follow up went just a whisker wide of the gaping far post.

Anderson became the first player to earn their way into the referee’s book, when he needlessly tripped Jordi Alba.

The half-time whistle came, and United will be wondering how they were down a goal, but they have 45 minutes to make amends for it.

Neither manager made a change during the 15-minute break, but it did not change how the game

Within two minutes United test Panderio, when Rooney whipped in a cross, but to be fair the goalkeeper made a meal of it.

The pressure continued and some poor communication between Panderio and one of his defenders saw them gift United a corner, and from that corner, Rooney found Berbatov, but his header went agonizingly wide of the post.

Five minutes into the second-half, Chris Smalling came on for an injured Rio Ferdinand to partner Nemanja Vidic, who also went down in the first-half with an injury, in central defense.

Anderson won United a free-kick 20 yards from goal, but Rooney’s effort could not beat the wall and the ball went out for a corner kick.

The cries from the Old Trafford crowd was “Attack! Attack! Attack!,” and that is what they continued to do, but a poor cross from Rafael saw Valencia scramble and able to clear their lines.

Valencia were faced with their own injury concern when Dominguez pulled up lame grabbing his right hamstring, and he was replaced by Isco.

Los Che allowed Rooney to bring the ball down, and, with space, he played it out to Nani, and he played it, but Berbatov was beaten to the cross, however, it was only cleared for a corner kick.

Anderson’s corner was only half-cleared to Carrick, who fluffed it up to Vidic, and his flick fell to Berbatov who smashed the ball into the corner, but he was standing in an offside position.

The second booking went Albelda after he bundled over Fabio, which was really another soft booking by the referee.

Following another good attacking movement, the ball squirmed its way into Rooney after it seemed Park had lost, and with quick turn and shot, his chance went inches wide.

Finally, the pressure from United paid off.

Rafael made a vibrant run into the Valencia half, and he did wonderfully well to pick out Park, and the South Korean cut inside and his shot was only blocked by Panderio, and Anderson scored from close range.

In the 65th minute, there was some suspect defending from United, and it could have very easily lead to Pablo to getting his second, but the ball dribbled across the United six-yard box.

Then moments later, United had a good chance themselves to grab the lead, but Rooney’s well-placed cross found Berbatov, but his header lacked direction and Panderio plucked it out of the air.

United press forward again, and some more good work from Rooney saw the ball make its way to Berbatov, but it was not his day, and Panderio got down and stretched well to get a hand to it.

The ball deflected wide, and invited Nani to increase the lead, but his wayward shot did not trouble anyone as it ended up deep in the Stretford End.

In a tactical change, Juan Mata came on for Jordi Alba to add more flare Valencia’s attacking formation.

The change looked to give the visitors confidence and the ball fell kindly to Aritz Aduriz, but his shot went well wide of Amos’ far post.

Fabio then clattered into the back of Juan Mata inside of the area, and the young full-back was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee as the appeals for a penalty were waved a way.

A very poor clearance by Amos, saw the ball go directly to Isco, but his shot did not test the young goalkeeper and went out for a goal kick.

Some very sloppy play from both Nani and Smalling allowed Valencia a clear shot at goal, but it was directly at Amos, and he hung onto the ball for dear life.

Miguel earned the second booking for Los Che with a cynical challenge on Rooney in the United half.

Valencia were showing clear intent to win this game, and it looked as though United were comfortable to just get a draw from the game.

Ryan Giggs entered the fray for Nani, which gives him the honor of having the most appearances for a British player in European competition with 136 total appearances.

Valencia made their own change as the goal scorer, Pablo, was replaced by the highly-touted youngster, Sofiane Feghouli.

The substitution by Ferguson shifted United into the more negative 4-5-1 formation, which allowed Los Che a lot more of the ball, and they were weaving in and around the United area.

Ferguson then brought Darren Fletcher for the last moments of the match for Anderson, who was becoming a little bit leggy, and to add more industry to the center of the United midfield.

The referee added three minutes of time on for injuries, stoppages and substitutions, and United saw out the match.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be best-pleased that Manchester United got the result that they needed to against Valencia to advance as the top spot in Group C, and it will encourage them in the latter rounds of the UEFA Champions League.

Anderson showed the industry that was needed to help guide United to the top spot in Group C, and he was rewarded with a goal.

B. Amos – 5; Rafael – 7, R. Ferdinand – 6 (C. Smalling – 6), N. Vidic – 6, Fabio – 5; Nani – 6 (R. Giggs – 6), M. Carrick – 6, Anderson – 8 (D. Fletcher – X), J. S. Park – 7; W. Rooney – 8, D. Berbatov – 7

Anderson (62′)

Possession: 45%
Corners: 6
Shots (On Target): 19 (9)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 11 (13)
Bookings: Anderson
Attendance: 74,513

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