There were smiles in Manchester last night when both United and City qualified for the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.
Neither club made life easy for itself, however, with Manchester United requiring “Fergie Time” to see off Young Boys of Switzerland.
Meanwhile Manchester City were held to a 2-2 draw in Lyon to stay three points clear of the French side in group F.
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Group H: Manchester United 1 Young Boys 0
Marouane Fellaini was the hero for United. The big Belgian scored a controversial goal two minutes into stoppage time that sent his side into the last 16 along with Juventus, who beat Valencia 1-0.
There’s a slim possibility United could still top group H but that would require them winning in Spain and Juventus losing against Young Boys. On current form neither scenario is likely.
For 91 minutes United were awful. Mustering only four shots on target against a side they beat 3-0 in September, the Red Devils looked as if they would go through an entire Champions League group stage without gracing Old Trafford with a goal.
Then, as fans began streaming out of the Theatre of Dreams unable to endure another nightmare display from their side, Fellaini collected Romelu Lukaku’s flick from Luke Shaw’s pass and swivelled to shoot past David Von Ballmoos in the visitors’ goal.
As the Swiss protested that Fellaini had handled the ball as he controlled it, Jose Mourinho launched into a wild celebration on the touchline, hurling a basket of water bottles to the ground.
“It was relief, frustration,” he said, when asked about his response to Fellaini’s goal. “I think we didn’t play for that, we didn’t play for 0-0, to be in trouble until the last minute, so [I felt] frustration.”
Fellaini, who along with Marcus Rashford was guilty of squandering earlier opportunities to break the deadlock, dismissed suggestions that his goal shouldn’t have stood.
“For me it was not handball, I controlled the ball, if it touched my hand it was not on purpose,” he said.
But if Fellaini grabbed the glory with his last-gasp goal, perhaps the real hero of the evening was David de Gea. The Spanish goalkeeper produced a brilliant one-saved save in the second-half to somehow keep out Michel Aebischer’s deflected shot.
“Without David’s save, no winning goal either,” said Mourinho. “He is a world-class goalkeeper, probably the best in the world, and that’s exactly what you need if you want to be a big club that wins things.”
Group F: Lyon 2 Manchester City 2
City also left it late against Lyon. The Sky Blues came twice from behind to draw 2-2 in France.
Maxwel Cornet gave the hosts the lead early in the second half with an angled drive but that strike was then cancelled out by Aymeric Laporte’s header. Cornet got his second on 81 minutes but two minutes later Sergio Aguero glanced a header into the Lyon net.
Over the Sky Blue moon
“We are so delighted and so happy,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “It is a big compliment for the team. We played one of toughest teams we’ve ever faced. They are physical, strong, they counter-attack incredibly.
“We reacted after 1-0 and 2-1 and we are in the final stages. This was our target. Now we must try to get a point to finish first in the group stage, but it is so important to go through.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for City, who host the already-eliminated Hoffenheim in their final group game on 12 December, while Lyon must avoid defeat against Shakhtar in Ukraine to join the Sky Blues in the knockout stage.
The French side had looked set to secure qualification last night but a late goal from Shakhtar gave them a 3-2 win over German club Hoffenheim to keep alive their faint hopes of reaching the last 16.
Matchday five results, fixtures and TV guide
Results: Tuesday 27 November
- Group E: AEK Athens 0 Ajax 2; Bayern Munich 5 Benfica 1
- Group F: Lyon 2 Manchester City 2; 1899 Hoffenheim 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 3
- Group G: CSKA Moscow 1 Viktoria Plzen 2; Roma 0 Real Madrid 2
- Group H: Juventus 1 Valencia 0; Manchester United 1 Young Boys 0
Fixtures: Wednesday 28 November
- Group A: Atletico Madrid vs. Monaco (5.55pm, live on BT Sport 1); Borussia Dortmund vs. Club Brugge (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra 3)
- Group B: PSV Eindhoven vs. Barcelona (8pm, live on BT Sport ESPN); Tottenham Hotspur vs. Inter Milan (8pm, live on BT Sport 3)
- Group C: Napoli vs. Red Star Belgrade (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra 2); Paris Saint-Germain vs. Liverpool (8pm, live on BT Sport 2)
- Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Galatasaray (5.55pm, live BT Sport ESPN); FC Porto vs. FC Schalke 04 (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra 4)
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