BRAGA 1 – 3 MANCHESTER UNITED
Alan – 49(P) Robin van Persie – 80
Wayne Rooney – 85 (P)
Javier Hernandez – 90+2
VENUE – Estadio Municipal de Braga
REFREEE – Felix Byrch (Germany)
Comeback kings Manchester United made their way into the last 16 with a hard fought win over Braga. The home side was on top for most of the game but could not make their dominance count. They took the lead when captain Alan scored from the spot after Custodio have been brought down by Evans. Braga were full money for their lead and looked dangerous on the counter attack as United searched for an equalizer. United were a given a lifeline when Beto, the Braga keeper came prematurely off his line and showed Persie an open goal. It was all Manchester United from then on and Rooney gave them the lead from the spot. Rooney himself won the penalty. Javier Hernandez put the icing on the cake when he managed to retrieve a lost opportunity to make it 3-1. The scoreline may suggest that Manchester United had it easy but it was far from it and the English side were lucky to get all 3 points.
Braga: Beto, Leandro Salino, Nuno Andre, Douglao, Elderson, Custodio, Hugo Viana, Alan, Ruben Micael, Ruben Amorim, Eder. Subs: Quim, Mossoro, Helder Barbosa, Baiano, Ismaily, Djamal, Ze Luis.
Man Utd: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck. Subs: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Carrick, Young, van Persie, Cleverley.
Braga – A must win game for Jose Periera’s men and he starts with an attacking XI. The trio of Alan, Michel and Viana supporting the lone man, Eder upfront. The quartet have been extremely effective for the Portuguese side and the manager has kept faith with them. Alan, also the club captain scored twice at Old Trafford will look to inspire his team against the English gianst. Custodio, has been phenomenal this season and he will required to do the job of keeping the visitors at bay. Beto, the club top keeper starts as expected. Salino who usually plays in midfield starts in defense with Elderson on the left. Nuno Andre and Douglao start in the centre of defense.
Manchester United– Knowing that a win will secure qualification to the knockout stages, Sir Alex Ferguson was expected to put up a strong lineup and he did not disappoint albeit a few surprises. Chris Smalling who has just returned to full fitness was expected to make the bench but he started the match at centre back along with Jonny Evans. Valencia, whose natural winger starts at right back while out of favor Nani starts on the wings. Evra starts on the left with Welbeck ahead of him. Anderson and the evergreen Giggs are deployed in the middle of the park with Rooney and Hernandez upfront. Robin van Persie, who has been in good form joins Cleverly and Young on a strong United bench.
The match started on a rather strange note when Beto, Braga’s keeper was still tying his boot laces. Manchester United was already attacking and the home side was shouting at the referee. The away team was comfortable on the ball in the early stages of the game. Wayne Rooney loved his deep playmaking role and was completely at ease in his position. Despite the high percentage of possession, United were hardly threatening. The final ball was lacking and Braga never looked troubled. The home side nearly capitalized on Evans’s misjudgment when he let Eder sneak in onto goal but the striker couldn’t make United pay. Sir Alex Ferguson would have been with his side’s passing but would have equally frustrated at the inability to do anything with the possession. Michel, on loan from Atletico Madrid was given far too much space but could only drag his shot wide. The visitors had the better possession but the home side had the better chances. Eder nearly gave the home side the lead when his brilliant diving header hit the post. The match became a little scrappy with both side losing possession in important areas of the pitch. Smalling was harshly booked when Eder went down far too easily. The half ended with both sides frustrated and the managers looking to iron out the twitches in the dressing room
The second half saw the home side start much better and dominated proceedings in the first few minutes of the half. The home side won a penalty when Custodio ran into Evans inside the box. The penalty seemed a little harsh on the United defender but the referee had no choice but to give the penalty. Alan, the Braga captain stepped and coolly dispatched the penalty past David de Gea. The home side was up and they fully deserved their lead. The English side was stung into action and this played into Braga’s hands as they sat back and hit United on the counter attack. On the 57th minute mark the lights went out in the stadium. The players went in their dressing rooms for a cool off until the problem was sorted out. United brought Ferdinand on for Evans but Braga were still the dominant side. Manchester United then made a couple of changes. Rafael came on for Nani and few minutes later Welbeck made way for Persie. The second change had a near instant impact when Giggs took a quick freekick to Persie who saw the on rushing goalkeeper and brilliant guided the ball past the stranded keeper. Out of nowhere United were level. The match had only one ending now. United, the comeback kings received a delayed penalty when Rooney was tripped in the box. Rooney, among the players to have missed from the spot this season made no mistake and put the visitors ahead. The Braga faithful were devastated. They had been on top for most of the match and yet were behind in the dying stages. Hernandez made it 3-1 in injury time with a scrappy goal. The match ended 3-1 and Manchester United qualified for the knockout stages.
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