RC Deportivo La Coruña 0-2 Manchester United FC
Manchester United FC put themselves firmly in the quarter-final driving seat with a 2-0 first-leg victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña at the Municipal de Riazor stadium.
David Beckham opened the scoring with a sensational long-range effort, before Ruud van Nistelrooij doubled their advantage four minutes before the break as United sealed the first-ever win by an English team in La Coruña. Deportivo created little in the way of clear-cut chances and will surely be underdogs when they travel to Manchester for the second leg in eight days' time. Indeed, the Spanish side looked a shadow of the team that beat United twice in the first group stage of this season's competition.
Beckham and Keane injured
Despite the victory, the result was overshadowed by injuries to United captain Roy Keane and Beckham. Keane collided with Sergio González on the stroke of half-time and was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a serious injury. Initial reports claim that the Republic of Ireland skipper will be out for up to a month. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "It's a hamstring injury. He will probably be out for three or four weeks which is good because we thought it was something more serious than that like his knee."
With Sir Alex sending out his team in a 4-5-1 formation, Deportivo were expected to claim much of the attacking possession but it was the visitors who looked bright early. Ryan Giggs was deployed to support lone striker Van Nistelrooij and the Welsh international proved to be a thorn in Deportivo's side all night. His pace created two chances for Van Nistelrooij, who tested José Molina to the full. Paul Scholes then saw his shot deflected narrowly wide, before United took the lead with a moment of magic.
It was England captain Beckham who put United in front with a magnificent curling shot from all of 35 metres after spotting Molina just off his line. The Deportivo keeper was clearly not expecting the United midfield player to strike such an audacious effort and could only watch in horror as the ball sailed over his head and into the far corner. Diego Tristán then wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise when he missed his kick six metres from goal. Nourredine Naybet headed just over the United bar from ten metres, before Tristán went close again for the hosts with a superb curling header from distance.
Just as Deportivo appeared to be getting back into the game, Van Nistelrooij made it 2-0 to United. Mikaël Silvestre's low left-wing cross bisected two Deportivo defenders and Van Nistelrooij poked the ball into the net from close range. The goal was almost a carbon copy of the Dutch striker's goal in the 1-1 away draw against FC Bayern München in the second group stage.
Wrath of Irureta
United then lost the influential Keane but showed no ill-effects during a lively second period. Deportivo had clearly suffered the wrath of coach Javier Irureta during the interval and looked far more positive in the second half. Juan Valerón, unusually quiet in the first half, blasted narrowly over the bar and Sergio shot into the body of Fabien Barthez from 25 metres, before Víctor Sánchez fired just wide.
United had two penalty appeals waved away, after tackles by Enrique Romero and Lionel Scaloni, and also saw Giggs miss twice after rounding the helpless Molina but they hung on and were seldom troubled, even after Roy Makaay and Djalminha arrived as attacking second-half substitutes. Barthez was kept busy with long-range shots but, with Ronny Johnsen and Laurent Blanc imperious at the back, the English side played out time with relative ease.
Beckham was injured in the dying seconds after a late tackle from Tristán and looked distressed as he was carried off down the tunnel. Another sour note for United was a yellow card for Paul Scholes that rules him out of the return match at Old Trafford. Deportivo promised much prior to kick off but will have to improve by next week if they are to stand a realistic chance of progressing.
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