Manchester United Beat CSKA Moscow And Clinch Top Spot

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Manchester United reached the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2014 by coming from behind to beat CSKA Moscow.

Victory at Old Trafford allowed Jose Mourinho’s side to top Group A ahead of second-placed Basel with 15 points from their six games.

The Russian side had taken the lead with a controversial goal on the stroke of half time as Vitinho’s shot was diverted into the net by Alan Dzagoev, although the forward was standing in an offside position.

Despite conceding, the hosts were on top throughout and could have gone in front within four minutes but Marcus Rashford scuffed a shot against the post following Romelu Lukaku’s through ball.

However, the United forward pair did score in quick succession in the second half to turn the match around.

Striker Lukaku stretched out a leg to poke home his 13th of the season from Paul Pogba’s pass on 64 minutes and Rashford stroked in just 66 seconds later.

Mixed return for Shaw

Defender Luke Shaw has had little game time in this campaign, making two substitute appearances in the EFL Cup. But the Englishman was given his first start of the season and his 50th overall for the club since joining in 2014.

Mourinho had told Shaw to “change his football brain” in April and the former Southampton full-back showcased an impressive performance, looking assured at the back and sharp in possession.

He nearly grabbed his first senior goal but saw his volley at the back post pushed away by Igor Akinfeev’s sprawling save, while he was inches away from picking out Rashford following a clever sprint in behind the CSKA defence.

Shaw completed the full 90 minutes but was culpable for the away side’s opener, failing to track Mario Fernandes’ burst into the box. The right-back picked out Vitinho in the box, whose shot hit Dzagoev and ended up in the net.

Should CSKA’s goal have stood?

It is unclear.

CSKA’s goal was awarded to Vitinho by Uefa, but the Brazilian’s shot looked like it was going wide before hitting the back of Dzagoev and into the net.

The Russia international should have been flagged offside as he was standing in between United’s last defender Chris Smalling and goalkeeper Romero.

However, in the build-up, Daley Blind had slid off the pitch as he attempted to block Fernandes’ cross.

According to the International Football Association Board law, it states: “a defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play”.

It seems the officials have interpreted the Dutchman as still being active in play and so the linesman’s flag stayed down.

Duo back to goalscoring ways

Belgian Lukaku’s blistering start in a Red Devils shirt saw him score 11 goals in his opening 10 games but he has hit a rough patch recently and this was heading towards another goalless game when a shot from close range was blocked by Akinfeev.

But Lukaku, whose selfless play often brought other team-mates into the action, netted the equaliser by holding off defender Viktor Vasin and converting just his second goal in his last 13 games.

Englishman Rashford has been on an even longer barren spell, going nine without netting, and was frustrated by the Moscow goalkeeper, having a low shot and thumping drive pushed away.

His persistence paid off with the winning goal, being set free into the area by Juan Mata’s pass, before calmly rolling into the far post.

Tougher tasks to come

United breezed through their comfortable group – the hard work will start from the last-16 stage.

Possible opponents could come in the shape of current holders Real Madrid, five-time winners Bayern Munich and Serie A champions Juventus.

Teams from the same country and same group cannot face each other, while sides which finish top of the group will come up against another that finished second.

The draw takes place in Nyon, Switzerland, on Monday (11:00 GMT), with the ties to be played on 13/14 or 20/21 February and the return legs on 6/7 or 13/14 March.

What next?

United face arguably their most important match of the season when they face rivals Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday (kick-off 16:30 GMT).

Midfielder Mata said: “It is important to win for your confidence level, Sunday is a big game (against Manchester City), we know how important it is.

“On Wednesday we rest then on Thursday we will think about the game and hopefully we can get the three points.”

Main man Marcus – the stats

  • Manchester United are now unbeaten in their last 40 home games in all competitions, their joint-longest run on home soil.
  • Marcus Rashford has been directly involved in 14 goals in all competitions for United this season (eight goals, six assists) – just one fewer than he was in 53 games in 2016-17 (11 goals, four assists).
  • The Red Devils have conceded more home goals in their four EFL Cup and Champions League games combined (two) than they have in their seven Premier League games at Old Trafford (one).
  • CSKA Moscow have conceded in each of their last 17 Champions League away games, shipping 40 goals in total since a 0-0 draw in Trabzonspor in November 2011.-bbc