Two goals in a pulsating two-minute spell enabled VfB Stuttgart to record their first-ever UEFA Champions League victory against a Manchester United FC side unable to live up to their billing as Group E favourites.
Imre Szabics and Kevin Kuranyi scored within quick succession early in the second half for a Stuttgart side exuding the confidence which comes from leading the Bundesliga. Only two penalty incidents helped United avoid a heavier defeat: Ruud van Nistelrooij scored one with ease, while United goalkeeper Tim Howard produced a miraculous save to prevent Fernando Meira doing the same.
United had the better of the first half - in terms of possession and passing - but Stuttgart posed the bigger threat in the box. Szabics and Andreas Hinkel had early chances to test Howard, yet neither did. Szabics wasted another chance, this time with his head, as the half drew to a close but the Hungarian international made amends soon after the break.
Szabics made an excellent run to create space for himself after Gary Neville had moved to close down Philipp Lahm. When a cross came in and the 18-year-old Lahm beat the United defender to a flicked header, Szabics was able to collect the ball, beat Rio Ferdinand and then, from 20 metres, Howard.
Even better was to come in the next minute. Kuranyi, the Brazilian-born striker who had worked tirelessly to collect the ball from inside his own half, was fed a pass by Szabics. With no marker to worry about, the German international had a clear run on goal before chipping the ball over the falling Howard.
To their credit, United remained composed. Sir Alex Ferguson brought on Quinton Fortune for John O'Shea and pushed Ryan Giggs over to the left from a central position; a switch which was to pay almost immediate dividends.
The Welsh winger colected the ball out wide, looked up and hit a diagonal pass across goal which was agonisingly missed by Van Nistelrooij and Roy Keane. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Timo Hildebrand pounced to collect the loose ball, and the goalkeeper was adjudged to have felled the Portuguese winger.
Showed his class
Despite having missed his three previous penalties, Dutch international Van Nistelrooij showed his class from the spot, giving United a lifeline by drilling the ball right-footed past Hildebrand.
Stuttgart, though, refused to be shaken, and launched forward forays at every opportunity. This policy almost paid off as Kuranyi won a penalty after a Ferdinand foul. Fernando Meira took the kick with confidence, yet could only watch and despair as the American Howard dived the right way to make an outstanding stop at full stretch.
The save gave the English champions extra impetus, which was added to following the arrival of the lively Diego Forlán. But to the intense relief of the packed Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart held on to secure a famous victory.
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