The UEFA Champions League Group D contenders experienced mixed fortunes at the weekend, with only Manchester United FC coming away with a win. SL Benfica and LOSC Lille Métropole both lost by the odd goal in five, resulting in the end of a seven-match unbeaten run for the Ligue 1 side. But in Spain, Villarreal CF's own undefeated sequence was extended to eleven games after a goalless draw.
AJ Auxerre 3-2 LOSC Lille Métropole
Lille's seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions ended on Saturday after Luigi Pieroni's two goals helped send the UEFA Champions League hopefuls crashing to defeat, despite having led twice. Mathieu Bodmer scored from the penalty spot to put the visitors ahead after seven minutes, before Yann Lachuer levelled ten minutes later. Pieroni, the 25-year-old Belgian forward, then scored with a 66th-minute spot-kick, to cancel out Yohan Cabaye's effort midway through the first half, before giving Auxerre the win when he converted Kanga Akalé's cross with 19 minutes remaining.
Lille's miserable evening was compounded by the departure of Mathieu Debuchy with an ankle injury after 42 minutes. The French Under-21 midfielder could be ruled out on Tuesday, alongside Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie (ankle) and Swiss winger Daniel Gygax, who suffered a dislocated shoulder during his country's FIFA World Cup play-off against Turkey last Wednesday. Captain Stéphane Dumont is also on the injury list as he recovers from knee surgery.
Coach Claude Puel, whose side slipped to seventh after the defeat, said: "I'm disappointed by the result. We made some juvenile errors, and consequently lost our unbeaten run. I am not confident of Debuchy being fit enough to take part against Benfica on Tuesday."
SC Braga 3-2 SL Benfica
Benfica are eight points off the summit after a dramatic last-gasp defeat by Portuguese Liga leaders Braga on Saturday. The visitors took the lead midway through the first half when Anderson headed in Petit's cross - the first league goal Braga have conceded at home this season. However, Cesinha restored parity after 67 minutes, before Julio Bevacqua headed Braga in front with three minutes remaining. A Nuno Gomes penalty looked to have secured Benfica a point in added time, but Bevacqua dashed the Portuguese champions' hopes with a second headed goal.
Quim replaced Rui Nereu in goal following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Simão also returned in place of João Pereira. Georgios Karagounis, out for two weeks with a foot injury, saw his place taken by Manuel Fernandes, while Italian forward Fabrizio Miccoli passed a fitness test to return after a month-long absence. Goalkeeper José Moreira, ruled out for six months with a knee problem, is coach Ronald Koeman's only other injury concern.
"We played well in the first half and scored the first goal," said Koeman. "But we were not as good in the second half and Braga deserved to win. We were lucky to score a late equaliser, but you can't then concede another goal like we did."
Charlton Athletic FC 1-3 Manchester United FC
Manchester United made a confident start to life without Roy Keane on Saturday, picking up three points on the day after their talismanic captain left the club by mutual consent. Two second-half goals from Ruud van Nistelrooij sealed the victory after United had been pegged back to 1-1.
Alan Smith, filling the defensive midfield role that Keane occupied for 12 seasons at Old Trafford, opened the scoring on 37 minutes with a low shot from the edge of the area. Despite the visitors' dominance, Darren Ambrose equalised with a superb 20-metre shot past Edwin van der Sar on 65 minutes. United responded quickly as Wayne Rooney set up Van Nistelrooij, who controlled with his chest and fired high into the net. The Dutchman added his tenth Premiership goal of the season five minutes from time.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson named an unchanged team from the one that defeated Chelsea FC 1-0 two weeks earlier, with Gary Neville (groin), Ryan Giggs (cheekbone), Gabriel Heinze (knee) and Louis Saha (hamstring) all ruled out with injury. "It's been a difficult week for the club, but it was vital we backed up our victory over Chelsea," said Ferguson. "Van Nistelrooij's finish was unbelievable and his goal came at a vital time, just after they equalised."
Villarreal CF 0-0 Real Zaragoza
An under-strength Villarreal side extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to eleven games following a goalless draw against Zaragoza on Saturday, in coach Manuel Luis Pellegrini's 50th game at the helm. Diego Forlán, Antonio Guayre (both thigh), Quique Álvarez (knee), and Javi Venta (muscular) all missed the game through injury, while Sebastián Viera, Juan Pablo Sorín and Juan Román Riquelme were all rested. The latter was to injure his thigh in training on Sunday, ruling him out of the trip to Manchester.
The visitors dominated the first half, as Villarreal struggled to penetrate their opponents' defence with an 18th-minute shot from Roger García which went over the crossbar all they had to show for their efforts. Pellegrini's side improved after the break as they began to display more ambition with a José María Romero header forcing a last-ditch clearance from Albert Celades, while García came close to winning it late on.
"A draw at home is never good," said Pellegrini. "The match was well balanced, though the best chances were ours but we could not score them. It's the first time [in the league this season] we have ended a game without scoring, but we must continue to work hard and settle for the team having played a good match."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.