Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho were enough to earn an underwhelming Manchester United a 2-0 victory at Villarreal on Tuesday, November 23 (Wednesday, November 24, Manila time) that guarantees them a spot in the Champions League knockout stages.
United came into the contest knowing victory would see them through to the last 16 with one group match left to play, but in Michael Carrick’s first game as interim manager, United looked shorn of ideas in attack in the Estadio de la Ceramica.
The home side had much the better chances, with United goalkeeper David de Gea bailing his team out with several fine saves, the best of which denied Manu Trigueros a goal.
Out of nowhere, however, a poor pass from Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli that was miscontrolled by Etienne Capoue was then seized upon by Ronaldo, who lofted the ball over the stranded Rulli to give United the lead in the 78th minute.
Ronaldo’s goals have been crucial for United in Europe this season. He scored late winners against Atalanta and Villarreal in the reverse fixture, while also netting a leveller in stoppage time at Atalanta in the last match.
The Portuguese forward got more than a helping hand for this important strike, but his finish was clinical. He also played a role in the second and clinching goal, laying the ball into substitute Bruno Fernandes, who fed Sancho to put the result beyond doubt.
The performance may have been disappointing, but United got the job done, moving top of Group F with 10 points, three ahead of Villarreal, who can no longer catch Carrick’s side due to their inferior head-to-head record.
“It’s massive for our season,” United captain Harry Maguire told BT Sport. “The last couple of months have been nowhere near good enough. We needed the result for our season and for our fans – we know how tough it’s been for them in recent weeks. We have to make sure this is just the start.”
With the traveling United fans singing the name of the man Carrick replaced – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – in the first half, there was little other action of note to get them too excited.
A Ronaldo header, straight at the goalkeeper, was United’s only shot on target in the half, with De Gea forced into two good saves to deny Trigueros and Yeremi Pino down the other end.
As United continued to sit back, Trigueros forced an even better save from De Gea at the start of the second half, with Villarreal sensing a beleaguered United might be there for the taking.
It took until the 72nd minute for United to put together a real attack of note with Sancho denied by a smart save, before the home goalkeeper’s error changed the course of the match.
“It’s a similar feeling to the Old Trafford game,” Trigueros said. “Their goalkeeper was in great form again.
“They’ve got a load of good players and if you give gifts away at the back they’ll punish you. Ronaldo creates goals from nothing and we made it easy to him. We played well, but once again we lost.”
Sancho picked an opportune moment to score his first of the season in all competitions, hammering the ball in off the underside of the crossbar to seal an important victory for the visitors in an otherwise disappointing season.
Chelsea thrash Juve 4-0 to reach last 16
Chelsea claimed a thumping 4-0 victory over Juventus thanks to goals from homegrown trio Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James, and Callum Hudson-Odoi and a fourth by Timo Werner to top Champions League Group H and cruise into the knockout stage.
European champions Chelsea took control from the outset and never relaxed as they booked their place in the last 16.
Defender Chalobah, 22, smacked the ball into the net past the flailing arms of Wojciech Szczesny in the 25th minute after center back Toni Rudiger set him up from a Hakim Ziyech corner.
A VAR check dismissed calls for handball against Rudiger when replays showed the ball hit his hand in front of his chest.
James, 21, showed superb technique to angle a shot into the left hand corner of the goal in the 55th and barely three minutes later 21-year-old Hudson-Odoi scored from a layoff by another Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Juventus had already qualified for the knockout stage but the result dropped them to second place in the group, level with Chelsea on 12 points, with one round of fixtures to play.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel was full of praise for his young scorers.
“It’s their biggest dream to perform at Stamford Bridge, to perform in blue, to be part of a strong Chelsea team,” the German said. “I strongly believe this is a huge part of the success that we have this mix.”
Werner put the icing on the cake before the final whistle by sending the ball home from a Ziyech cross.
Chelsea, beaten 1-0 in Turin in September, made the Italians look ordinary, running them ragged with intricate passing movements and producing 20 shots on goal to Juve’s eight.
Former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata had the visitors’ best chance when he chipped the ball over advancing Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy in the 28th minute, but 37-year-old defender Thiago Silva raced back to superbly hook the ball off the line.
Mendy pulled off a save of his own late in the second half, tipping the ball over the bar from a Weston McKennie shot.
Szczesny saved Juventus from utter humiliation with a series of fine stops, pushing the ball round the post from efforts by Hudson-Odoi and James as well as keeping out Ziyech and Ben Chilwell.
The one downside for the hosts was an injury to wing-back Chilwell, who appeared to twist his knee and was helped off the pitch. – Rappler.com