Startled United win through
By Patrick Goss
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Manchester United appeared to be cruising at 2-0, but the flurry of substitutions appeared to effect concentration - and two individual goals momentarily embarrassed the former champions.
Laurent Blanc had given The Red Devils a first half lead with a header from a corner, and Juan Sebastian Veron appeared to have ended the Greeks' hopes an hour in with a second.
A lovely individual goal from Lampros Choutos, who ran past three United players and slotted past Fabien Barthez 20 minutes from time was added to minutes later by Predrag Djordjevic
Again the United defence were guilty of not dealing with a player running directly at them, and Djordjevic's resultant shot was too powerful for Barthez to keep out.
But in truth United deserved victory for their dominance, and when Paul Scholes pounced to fire home a third - few could begrudge Sir Alex Ferguson his win.
The first half had shown a gulf in class between the two sides, with United keeping their hosts at arm's length with consummate ease.
Scholes had already seen one shot from range clumsily saved, and volleyed a David Beckham corner narrowly over.
But the goal, when it arrived 21 minutes into the game, was provided by a less likely source.
A Ryan Giggs corner arrived perfectly for Blanc, who completely unmarked in the middle of the goal had the easiest task to head home from just a matter of a few yards out.
Playing as a sole striker Diego Forlan should have grabbed himself a goal at the start of the second half but woefully bobbled the ball towards goal with the studs of his boot.
But a second goal was inevitable and it came when Giggs` pressure left Veron with the ball.
The Argentine strolled into the space and slammed superbly home into the bottom corner.
Two quickfire goals from the Greeks appeared to have got them a draw, but after watching Scholes slam a shot into the post following good work from Forlan, the defence did not learn their lesson and the diminutive England international was given a second chance that he did not squander.
In the other Group F game, Bayer Leverkusen put themselves in pole position for the second qualification spot with a hard fought 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa.
Marko Babic grabbed the opener on the cusp of half time, when he headed home after a wonderful cross from Zoltan Sebescen.
However Maccabi are in the competition by right, and they levelled trough Nenad Pralija.
Pralija pounced on a poor punch by Bayer goalkeeper Hans Jorg Butt and bobbled a shot home eight minutes after the break.
But Bayer were not to be denied and Juan ensured victory when he headed home - with Sebescen again the provider.