A Ruud van Nistelrooij penalty deep into stoppage time earned Manchester United FC a valuable UEFA Champions League point in a 1-1 draw at FC Nantes Atlantique in Group A.
Van Nistelrooij's effort - coolly struck past the excellent Mikaël Landreau - cancelled out Viorel Moldovan's goal more than 80 minutes earlier and left the visitors top of the group with five points, ahead of FC Bayern München on goal difference. Nantes remain bottom with a single point.
The evening began encouragingly for the home side, who used the full width of the Beaujoire stadium pitch to cause United no end of problems. The pressure was to pay off after only nine minutes when Moldovan showed great composure to slot past Fabien Barthez after a series of ricochets in the penalty area.
Denied by the upright
Nantes continued to pour forward with Marama Vahirua looking particularly lively. United, competition winners in 1999, slowly clawed their way back into the game and Van Nistelrooij struck a post with a blistering shot after a fine run. Six minutes later, and the prolific Dutchman was only centimetres away after David Beckham played in a majestic cross.
Diminutive midfield player Stéphane Ziani was proving a handful down the right flank for Nantes and he played in a teasing cross which Vahirua nearly got on the end of. United responded in kind on the half-hour, the irrepressible Van Nistelrooij letting rip a rasping drive which Landreau brilliantly saved.
The Tahiti-born Vahirua again had a glorious opportunity to add to his side's lead but was let down by some poor finishing. United's best chance of the half fell to captain Roy Keane, who somehow managed to volley over from two metres out.
Business as usual
The second half lacked none of the electric tempo of the first 45 minutes, with the visitors quick out of the blocks, the ubiquitous Van Nistelrooij just failing to make a telling contact. The same man again found himself in the area soon after but this time Mario Yepes made an important interception to thwart the in-form striker.
Super sub on target
The introduction of Norwegian substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjær certainly livened things up for United, the 28-year-old's powerful shot was well saved by Landreau on 63 minutes. Ryan Giggs then found himself with all the time in the world but could not make his chance count.
It was then the turn of Barthez to produce a truly fantastic save from an Olivier Quint effort, tipping it over for a corner. Landreau made the save of the match with five minutes to go to deny Paul Scholes whose bullet header from inside the box looked destined for the bottom corner.
United's pressure did finally pay off when Colombian central defender Yepes handled inside the area and referee Kyros Vassaras had no choice but to award the penalty. Van Nistelrooij blasted home the spot kick despite the best efforts of the magnificent Landreau.
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