Cluj win at Manchester United, fail to advance

TOM PILCHER
Last updated 11:22 06/12/2012

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CFR Cluj's bid to become the first Romanian side to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages ended today despite a famous 1-0 upset win over Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Brazilian Luis Alberto struck an unstoppable swerving shot after 56 minutes to condemn a second-string United to their first home loss in Europe's elite competition since 2009, but Galatasaray's 2-1 win at Braga put the Turkish side through.

Cluj finished Group H level on 10 points with Galatasaray, behind winners United on 12, but the Romanians lost out on head-to-head record and have the Europa League as consolation.

Steaua Bucharest, the 1986 winners, reached the final of Europe's elite club competition in 1989, but no Romanian club has reached the knockout stages of the Champions League since it was formed in the 1992-93 season.

Cluj, making their third Champions League appearance after group stage outings in 2010-11 and 2008-09, survived pressure from the home team in the first half when goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras denied Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney.

Felgueiras also repelled a Danny Welbeck header as United looked to grab the advantage.

However, it was Luis Alberto's moment of genius in the second half that stole the show for the visitors in a largely dour affair, inflicting a first home defeat on United since they lost to Besiktas in November 2009.

"It's a fantastic goal they scored to beat us," United manager Alex Ferguson told the club's website (www.manutd.com) of the superb strike past goalkeeper David de Gea.

"He bent it away from David, who had no chance with it. It was just one of those nights. We didn't take our chances," added Ferguson, unfazed by two straight Champions League defeats after his side were assured of qualification by winning their first four games.

"We qualified early and after that we experimented. That will hold us in good stead for the next phase," the Scot told Sky Sports, adding that midfielder Cleverley had picked up a calf injury at the end of the first half.

United's last-16 opponents will be known when the draw is made on Dec. 20, with Ferguson's men due to face one of the group runners-up.

Nine-times European champions Real Madrid, seven-times winners AC Milan, 1987 and 2004 champions Porto, twice finalists Valencia, 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk or Scotland's Celtic await.

Cluj head into uncharted waters when they resume European competition in the Europa League last 32 in February, their first taste of continental action after Christmas, though coach Paulo Sergio said his team were upset not to have qualified.

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"We played very, very well. Our game went as we had worked for and expected, and we did not allow Manchester United to impose their style of play," he told UEFA's website (www.uefa.com).

"The players are sad now, but they have to be proud, because it is not common to win at Old Trafford," added Sergio, who replaced Ioan Andone in October, midway through the Romanian champions' group-stage campaign.

 

GALATASARAY MOVE ON

Second-half goals from Galatasaray's in-form striker Burak Yilmaz and substitute Aydin Yilmaz sealed a memorable 2-1 comeback win at Braga that sent the Turkish champions into the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in a decade.

Galatasaray were second in Group H before the match, with the same points as CFR Cluj but ahead on goal difference, and needed to achieve a result that matched the Romanians' at Manchester United to reach the last 16.

Cluj upset the Premier League leaders and group winners 1-0 but the Turkish side matched them by chiselling out a late win on a cold evening at Braga's "quarry" stadium.

After several wasted chances Braga scored the opener through Brazilian attacking midfielder Mossoro within the half-an-hour.

But in the second half Galatasaray reacted. They equalised through Burak Yilmaz after 58 minutes before Aydin Yilmaz pounced for the late winner.

"There's a huge joy within the team now. Our coach Fatih Terim motivated us in a great way at halftime. We needed to make a comeback and we did so" Yilmaz told the UEFA website.

"(Coach Fatih) Terim dressed us down a little in the dressing room but this gave us additional motivation and power".

The Portuguese started stronger and were quicker and more aggressive, dominating a surprisingly apathetic Turkish side who gave the ball away too easily.

Braga's 24-year-old striker Eder wasted a good early chance, denied by a sliding tackle from Galatasaray's Felipe Melo.

After a barrage of opportunities, the Portuguese deservedly went ahead. Mossoro made the most of a poor clearance effort from Melo, picked up the ball outside the box and shot home.

"We started the match badly, just couldn't get into the right mood. We realized that the outcome was going away from our hands and we returned to the game," Burak Yilmaz said.

Galatasaray compensated for a poor start with deadly attacking efficiency.

Yilmaz continued his impressive form in the Champions League and extended his goal tally to six, levelling after 58 minutes with a textbook header.

"Amrabat provided me a very good cross," he said.

With Terim increasingly desperate on the sidelines they completed their comeback through substitute Aydin Yilmaz when the midfielder pounced on a loose ball from a parried save by Braga keeper Quim to grab a memorable winner.

"This hurts. The result does not correspond at all to what happened on the pitch," Braga coach Jose Peseiro told Portuguese television. "We had more chances, more possession, more corners, more free kicks. We were almost always in control".

BAYERN ROUT

Xherdan Shaqiri, given his first Champions League start for Bayern Munich, scored one and set up another to help last season's runners-up beat BATE Borisov 4-1 with a mainly second-string side.

Mario Gomez, starting a match in the competition for the first time this season after injury, Thomas Mueller and David Alaba scored the others as Bayern, already qualified, topped Group F and avenged their 3-1 defeat away to the Belarus champions.

Both teams finished with 10 men. Bayern's Jerome Boateng was shown a straight red card for a dangerous studs-up challenge on Artem Kontsevoi in the 50th minute and BATE's Denis Polyakov was given a second yellow for diving.

BATE finished third and qualified for the Europa League.

Swiss international Shaqiri, one of seven changes to the team which drew 1-1 with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Saturday, set up Bayern's opener after 22 minutes as he charged to the byline and sent over a low cross which was turned in by Gomez.

BATE were denied an equaliser before halftime when Bayern defender Diego Contento forced Polyakov's effort wide from Kontsevoi's cross.

Bayern, furious about Boateng's red card, still managed to score their next two goals with a one-man disadvantage.

Bastian Schweinsteiger headed on a Toni Kroos free kick and Mueller side-footed into the net from close range in the 53rd minute and Shaqiri headed in a Gomez cross in the 66th minute.

It was the 21-year-old's second goal from Bayern since his move from FC Basel in the close season.

Substitute David Alaba added a fourth with a shot on the turn in the 83rd minute, the Austrian 20-year-old's first Champions League goal. Yegor Filipenko pulled one back for the visitors in the 89th minute.

 

VALENCIA SECOND IN GROUP

A first-half penalty by Jonas was enough for Valencia to win 1-0 at already-eliminated Lille but the Spanish side had to settle for second in Champions League Group F today.

Jonas converted a penalty nine minutes from the interval as Valencia finished on 13 points, level with Bayern Munich but behind the German team because of a worse head-to-head record.

Lille finished bottom with three points, three adrift of Europa League-bound BATE Borisov.

Valencia were without new coach Ernesto Valverde who will effectively take over from the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino on Thursday.

With former match delegate Salvador Gonzalez 'Voro' on the bench on a temporary basis, the troubled La Liga side did not impress but played solidly.

Lille made the best start but it was shortlived.

Lucas Digne made a good job of containing Sofiane Feghouli on Valencia's right flank early on in a game played under a closed roof.

The left fullback was also at ease going forward, sending a fine cross into the box only for Marko Basa to head over the bar.

Basa brought down Jonas in the box 10 minutes before the interval and the Brazilian beat Steve Elana to convert the resulting penalty.

Lille played nice football but definitely lacked stamina and proved to be toothless up front until the hour when Ronny Rodelin's 10-metre volley was blocked on the goal line by striker Nelson Valdez.

Vicente Guaita impressively palmed away Salomon Kalou's powerful 84th-minute strike to secure the win.

Valencia, 12th in the La Liga standings 22 points behind leaders Barcelona following a mediocre start to the season, travel to Osasuna on Saturday.

- Reuters

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