Cristiano Ronaldo News

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Report: United 3 Copenhagen 0

17/10/2006 21:03, Report by Ben Hibbs

United saw off Copenhagen comfortably if not with a classic performance on Tuesday night, leaving the Reds with maximum points so far in the Champions League and potentially one good result away from qualification to the knockout phase.

Top of the Premiership and top of Group F, United went into this match having heeded Sir Alex Ferguson’s call to get the season off to a flyer in the opening ten games. Apart from a blip against Arsenal, the Reds are unbeaten domestically and in Europe. More of the same was both expected and needed with two wins over Copenhagen the target to secure a passage to the first knockout round.

The Reds had intended to start with the team that finished the impressive second half showing against Wigan on Saturday, only with Cristiano Ronaldo replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the right. However, Sir Alex was forced into a late change, with Wes Brown replacing Rio Ferdinand, who pulled out of the match with a stiff neck, and Darren Fletcher coming in for Ryan Giggs, who felt unwell in the warm-up and dropped to the bench. Wayne Rooney was subsequently made captain.

The late disruptions didn’t hinder United initially as inside 30 seconds the Reds had the first opportunity. Michael Carrick pinged a pass to Rooney, whose deft touch put Louis Saha through. Perhaps the Frenchman was not quite up to match speed, because his finish was unusually poor, straight at Copenhagen goalkeeper Jesper Christiansen.

After 18 minutes Rooney himself went agonisingly close. Saha and Ronaldo combined well down the left to leave the Portuguese winger through on goal. He aimed his shot into the far top corner rather than squaring the ball early to Rooney, who, still in
desperate need of goal, was millimetres away from applying the required touch as Ronaldo’s effort went wide. When you’re out of luck, nothing goes right.

Copenhagen, who explicitly said so before the match, were not here to make up the numbers. And they proved they could be a threat as winger Atiba Hutchinson found Marcus Allback on the edge of the box to turn and test Edwin van der Sar with a low shot. The Dutchman, busier than he hoped to be, was called upon again a minute later when Michael Silberbauer hit a stinging 25 yard effort goalwards, but the Reds stopper was well positioned, as he was when he raced out to slide tackle advancing striker Fredrik Berglund five minutes later.

Just as it looked like the Reds had lost their early rhythm, Rooney carved open Copenhagen’s defence with a cute pass to Saha, but again the Frenchman was denied by Christiansen, who saved with his legs. He saved well again from Carrick’s low, skidding shot and from Scholes’ rebound, all inconsequential as United had three players in an offside position.

Something special was needed to beat the inspired Danish stopper, and it arrived six minutes before half time. Evra advanced at pace, squared his pass to Saha who teed up a shot for Scholes. His bullet of a finish finally got past the Copenhagen keeper, his first goal for the Reds since December 2005 when he scored against West Brom in the Premiership and his first in Europe since scoring the only goal in last year’s disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Benfica.

Rooney’s lack of fortunate in front of goal continued immediately after the break when he latched onto a long ball forward and flicked it deftly over Christiansen, only for Michael Gravgaard to sneak in and clear the danger. But his contribution remains unquestionable. It earned United a corner, from which John O’Shea got a lucky break when the ball came off his standing leg to make it 2-0.

The Reds were denied a blatant penalty just before the hour mark when Scholes was felled by Christiansen as he advanced into the box. Sir Alex made a double substitution after 60 minutes, Alan Smith and Solskjaer replacing Saha and the impressive Carrick. But Copenhagen, who also made a couple of changes, quickly gave United a stark reminder they would push to the end when tricky winger Hutchinson forced an excellent save from van der Sar with a curling effort from the edge of the area.

But United looked comfortable, keeping possession and passing the ball freely in defence and midfield. And the match was put out of reach as substitute Kieran Richardson, on for the outstanding Paul Scholes, hit a shot from 25 yards that so wickedly swerved it completed fooled Christiansen who got a hand to the shot but could only watch as the ball trickled over the line.

Not vintage United in Europe, but the result maintains the Reds’ 100 per cent record in Group F and edges Sir Alex’s side closer to the knockout stages that were so painfully elusive last season.

Team Line-ups

United: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick (Solskjaer, 60), Scholes (Richardson 86), Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha (Smith, 60).
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Giggs, Jones.*
dropped out due to stiff neck.

Goalscorers: Scholes (39), O’Shea (46), Richardson (83).

FC Copenhagen: Christiansen, Jacobsen, Hangeland, Gravgaard, Wendt, Silberbauer (Bergvold, 81), Linderoth, Norregaard (Pimpong, 57), Hutchinson, Allback, Berglund (Kvist, 57).
Subs not used: Gall (GK), Thomassen, Brandrup, Hansen.

Attendance: 72,020


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