Utd top despite surprise draw
Man Utd claimed top spot in Group E, despite being held to a surprise 2-2 draw at home by AaB Aalborg.
Last Updated: 10/12/08 10:05pm
Manchester United claimed top spot in Group E, despite being held to a surprise 2-2 draw at home by AaB Aalborg.
The Danes, who have qualified for the Uefa Cup, briefly threatened an upset when leading at half-time, but Wayne Rooney spared the holders' blushes to equal a Champions League record of 19 games unbeaten.
United enjoyed a dream start by taking the lead after just three minutes as Ryan Giggs and Rooney combined for the Welsh veteran to lift the ball into the path of Carlos Tevez, who clipped a fine shot past Karim Zaza.
But the rhythm slowly went out of United's play and Aalborg grabbed a shock equaliser on 32 minutes when Anders Due's free-kick was glanced past stand-in keeper Tomasz Kuszczak by the unmarked Michael Jakobsen.
The Danes silenced Old Trafford again in first-half injury-time as Due's cross-field pass picked out the unmarked Jeppe Curth and his superb header arced inside the far post.
The Red Devils were quick to draw level early in the second half as Anderson's excellent pass fed Rooney and he drilled a fierce shot past Zaza.
Aalborg defender Steve Olfers glanced Rooney's ball into the box against his own crossbar before Tevez missed another good chance for the holders.
After being credited with four goals against Blackburn seven days ago, Tevez is a man in form - and there could have been no better man to be presented with United's first chance.
It was a delightful move too as Giggs fed Rooney, took the chested return pass and lofted the ball beyond the static Aalborg defence. Tevez sized up the opportunity and slid a precise shot past Zaza.
On the Red Devils' next attack, Aalborg were carved open again as Anderson found Rooney - and the England man quickly set up Tevez with an astute reverse pass. It seemed certain the Argentinian would find the net a second time. Instead he slipped his shot wide.
It did not seem to matter much as Anderson and Nani followed Tevez - again - in peppering the visitors' goal.
At that point, it was difficult to see exactly how the Danes have managed to secure a Uefa Cup place at Celtic's expense, held Villarreal on home soil and scored against the Spanish outfit three times at El Madrigal.
But slowly Aalborg gained in confidence - and, taking advantage of the slackness that appeared in United's play, they promptly equalised.
Sir Alex Ferguson will demand to know why his side's marking went so badly awry when Due skimmed over a left-footed free-kick. Once free and in space at the near post, Jakobsen stooped to flick a header out of Tomasz Kuszczak's reach.
Kuszczak's presence was something of a surprise, given Ben Foster had appeared at the pre-match press conference - and the Pole was unhappily picking the ball out of his net again in stoppage time.
Again, Due was the provider - floating an excellent cross to the far post that invited Curth's superb headed finish, which was well out of Kuszczak's range as it curled neatly home.
The reaction of Aalborg coach Allan Kuhn - who had presided over a 12-match unbeaten run since replacing Bruce Rioch in October - was reminiscent to that of Jose Mourinho when, still relatively unknown, he guided Porto past United on their way to winning the tournament five years ago.
While Ferguson exuded calm authority, inside he must have been seething. The interval introductions of Paul Scholes and Park Ji-sung hinted at displeasure, so Rooney's well-taken equaliser seven minutes after the restart would have gone down well.
Rooney's seventh of the season, the same as Tevez, was a ferocious thrash at Anderson's through ball and came not long after he had pole-axed Jakobsen with a dangerous but seemingly accidental challenge as he tried to retrieve possession.
The fire continued to flow through Rooney's body even though, with parity restored and Villarreal losing, only professional pride was at stake as United's list of potential knockout round opponents was completed elsewhere.
Referee Laurent Duhamel picked Rooney and Aalborg captain Thomas Augustinussen out for a chat after their on-going feud threatened to boil over. However, Rooney was also the instigator of a cross-field pass that Olfers nudged on to his own bar.
Tevez blasted a shot into the side-netting, with Rooney the architect once more. It was the last chance United created.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Aalborg BK|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|5||Shots on Target||5|
|11||Shots off Target||5|