Man Utd extend perfect run in Europe, Chelsea grab late win
United into Champions League knock-out stages as last-gasp Blues keep their hopes alive
Braga 1 Manchester United 3. Alex Ferguson’s men booked a place in the knock-out stages of the Champions League and Chelsea scored a last minute winner to greatly improve their chances of progressing on a night when nobody was paying much attention thanks to Celtic's heroics against Barcelona.
Manchester United men visited Portugal knowing that a point was all they needed to secure their passage to the next stage of the competition and, despite conceding the first goal and being forced off the field by a floodlight failure, three goals in the last ten minutes secured all three points.
United have now been confirmed as winners of Group H and are the only team in the competition with a 100 per cent record.
There was more good news for Ferguson as long-term absentee Chris Smalling (above right) made his first appearance of the season at centre back and lasted 90 minutes. There were also starts for Anderson and out-of-favour Nani.
After a goalless first half, things went awry for United when Jonny Evans bundled over Custodio in the box and Alan slammed home the penalty. Shortly afterwards a power cut forced the players from the field, but after a break of ten minutes the floodlights came back on and the game resumed.
"The improvement in their game after the unscheduled interval suggested Sir Alex Ferguson had made the most of the opportunity to deliver an additional team-talk," said The Daily Telegraph.
But it was not until ten minutes from time that United substitute Robin van Persie equalised. His goal opened the floodgates and five minutes later Wayne Rooney gave United the lead from the penalty spot and Javier Hernandez sealed the victory in injury time.
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won a topsy-turvy encounter with Shakhtar Dontesk to go level with the Ukrainian side in Group E, one point above Juventus.
Chelsea took the lead early on when an attempted clearance from Shakhtar's hapless goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov rebounded off Fernando Torres and into the net. But Willian equalised for the visitors after nine minutes.
Pyatov was at fault again when Chelsea took the lead against the run of play shortly before half-time. The keeper left his box to head the ball clear, but it fell to Oscar, who fired the ball back into the unguarded net from 40 yards.
Willian was on hand once again after the break to make it 2-2. A draw looked inevitable, but substitute Victor Moses was on hand to head home Juan Mata's corner deep into injury time to give Chelsea a fortuitous win.
"It was a night when Chelsea rode their luck but also deserve credit for pressing until that late dramatic twist," said the BBC's Phil McNulty. “The performance mattered so much less than this crucial victory."
The result leaves the Blues and Shakhtar tied on seven points at the top of the group, with Juventus lurking one point behind. Chelsea take on the Italian giants in Turin later this month. ·