The two big Manchester clubs, United and City, both recorded wins last night in the UEFA Champions League restoring some European pride for the EPL after a poor start to the competition by English teams.
Manchester United came back from a goal deficit to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 at home, reports the BBC. They fell behind in the fourth minute to a Daniel Caligiuri strike that concluded an incisive passing move, which cut through the heart of Manchester United’s defense.
It was the first Champions League home game proper, (disregarding the qualification round in August) at Old Trafford in two years, one of the classical theaters of European football, and the crowd did not let the poor start dampen their exuberance.
European football always brings a unique atmosphere to Old Trafford, and pressure began to build on the Wolfsburg goal as Manchester United gradually found some rhythm.
Some slick passing and direct play from Depay and Martial added pace and trickery to both wings, where each took on and beat their markers at will.
It wasn’t long before Manchester United created some clear-cut chances, with Juan Mata curling a left strike from 15 yards out, that had the Wolfsburg keeper beaten and the ball destined for the top corner, before centre-back Dante made a last-ditch, diving header intercept which sent the ball behind for a corner.
Minutes later it was Anthony Martial’s turn to go on a tantalizing run, beating two players before curling a shot wide. Rooney then fired over with the goal at his mercy after excellent work from Martial on the right wing, dribbling past four players and pulling back a cross which put the ball on a plate for England’s all-time record striker.
It took 30 minutes though for Manchester United to conjure an equalizer. It came from the penalty spot as Mata converted with ease, punishing a handball by Wolfsburg goal scorer Daniel Caligiuri, who clearly had his arms raised in an unnatural position when blocking Mata’s cross.
Manchester United held on to their lead after some late Wolfsburg pressure and secured the first three points of their European campaign.
Juan Mata was the pick of United’s players continuing his good start to the season, with a 97 percent pass completion rate and creating five chances in total last night. So far this season in all competitions, Mata has been involved in nine goals scoring four and assisting five.
After the match, Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal expressed his satisfaction with the performance, and the solidity of his team’s defense after conceding an early goal.
“It was very difficult because they scored so early. Then we did very well; we created a lot of chances. Of course, it is a penalty but there are some referees not whistling for that. We have created many more chances – Rooney and Depay could have scored, and you finish the game. Then we score and after that it was suffering. A lot of players are very tired, but we didn’t give much away. How many chances have we given away? Maybe one.”
Watch video highlights of the United match here.
Manchester City were in action at German side Borussia Monchengladbach and their match followed a similar pattern, with City staging a comeback from 1-0 down to win 2-1, also scoring a penalty, reports UEFA.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini unleashed a $200 million attack playing Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne together for the first time.
Aguero missed several clear-cut chances in the first half, but City were not punished for their profligacy in front of goal thanks to an impressive performance from England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Hart saved a first-half penalty after Raffael was fouled by Manchester City defender Otamendi and went on to make a number of world-class stops as City ‘s defense was breached time and again.
But even an inspired Joe Hart couldn’t stop a clinical Lars Stindl drive in the 54th minute which put Borussia Monchengladbach in the lead.
City’s poor European form looked as if it was going to persist, but on 67 minutes they were handed a lifeline as Otamendi’s shot into a frantic and crowded penalty area ricocheted into the goal.
The equalizer gave Manchester City renewed impetus, and with confidence revitalized they created a number of chances to snatch the winner, Aguero, Fernandinho, and Jesus Navas all going close.
Then in the last minute of play, Sergio Aguero was brought down in the Borussia Monchengladbach box. City were awarded a penalty, and the Argentine striker stepped up to fire home, securing a dramatic late win.
Watch video highlights of the City match here.
[Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images]