MANCHESTER, Dec 6 ― Manchester United reached the Champions League last-16 as Group A winners after coming from behind to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 at home and finish ahead of Basel who also went through with a 2-0 win at Benfica yesterday.
The result left United top of the section on 15 points, three more than second-placed Basel and six ahead of third-placed CSKA who will carry on in the second-tier Europa League after the winter break.
Having missed a string of good chances in the opening period, United fell behind to a freakish Vitinho goal, heavily deflected off Alan Dzagoev, on the stroke of halftime before Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford struck within a minute to turn the match on its head.
Rashford hit the post in the fourth minute and saw a shot from a tight angle saved by CSKA’s busy keeper Igor Akinfeev, who also kept out a Luke Shaw volley as United’s left back enjoyed a fine evening after making his first start since April.
CSKA struck out of the blue as Mario Fernandes broke down the right and set up Vitinho, whose miscued shot struck Dzagoev in the back and bounced into the net.
United piled the pressure after the break and Akinfeev parried another fierce Rashford shot before the home side’s siege finally paid dividends.
Lukaku used his physical strength to steer in the equaliser in the 64th minute, as he got on the end of a probing Paul Pogba pass despite being tugged by CSKA centre back Viktor Vasin.
Rashford got his reward for tireless work less than a minute later, drilling in a sublime Juan Mata chip with a fierce left-footed shot from 13 metres which gave Akinfeev no chance.
Needing to match CSKA’s result to go through, Basel quickly established their grip on a knockout stage berth as Mohamed Elyounoussi headed the Swiss side into an early lead in Lisbon after Michael Lang’s inch-perfect cross.
Another close-range header by striker Dimitri Oberlin doubled Basel’s lead midway through the second half as Benfica finished bottom of the group with zero points from six games. ― Reuters