Manchester United FC 3-2 RC Deportivo La Coruña (Agg: 5-2)
Manchester United FC booked their place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals with a superb 3-2 victory over nine-man RC Deportivo La Coruña at Old Trafford. However, the victory came at a price, with David Beckham breaking a bone in his ankle after a first-half challenge by Aldo Duscher.
Two for Solskjær
Two goals by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, ironically Beckham's replacement, and a superb solo effort from Ryan Giggs completed a convincing 5-2 aggregate victory. Having won the first leg 2-0 at the Riazor stadium last week, United were never unduly troubled despite goals for the Spanish club from Djalminha and an own goal by Lauren Blanc.
Butt in control
Deportivo began the match brightly but failed to make their possession count in the final third of the field. Djalminha, only a substitute in the first leg, started the match playing just behind Diego Tristán but was unable to break through a stubborn United midfield. Nicky Butt and Juan Sebastian Verón, playing in place of the injured Roy Keane and the suspended Paul Scholes, stemmed Deportivo's attacking flow and created chance after chance for the hosts.
Beckham was becoming an increasingly strong force in the game before Duscher, stretching to make a hard tackle, caught him on the ankle. The England captain was clearly in pain and was taken to hospital after a bout of treatment on the sidelines. The initial prognosis is a poor one, with United confirming that he will be out of action for up to eight weeks.
Beckham's 21st-minute departure opened the door of opportunity for Solskjær and the Norwegian international striker wasted no time in announcing his arrival. Verón fired in a teasing ball from the resulting free-kick and Solskjær was on hand to poke the ball past José Molina with his very first touch. Giggs then headed a Gary Neville cross over before Deportivo equalised on the stroke of half-time.
Blanc own goal
Enrique Romero burst past Solskjær down the left flank and drilled a low cross inside the five-metre box. United defender Laurent Blanc, in a vain attempt to clear, could only turn the ball past fellow countryman Fabien Barthez for an own goal. Van Nistelrooij then headed wide from four metres after a searching centre from Ryan Giggs, before the half-time whistle brought some respite after an exciting opening period.
Verón the creator
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with Deportivo quickly on the attack. Djalminha crashed a shot just wide of the United goal but it was the hosts who took the lead, with Solskjær scoring his second of the night eleven minutes after the restart. Verón split the Deportivo defence with a glorious pass and Solskjær smashed the ball under the body of Molina from a tight angle to score his seventh Champions League goal this term.
Goal to remember
Deportivo were then reduced to ten men, when Lionel Scaloni received a second yellow card for dissent. United soon made their numerical advantage count when Giggs scored a goal to remember. The Welsh international received the ball on the right flank and cut inside, leaving two defenders floundering, before beating Molina with a low drive at his near post.
With Deportivo's hopes of progressing fading, their chances were dealt a further blow six minutes later when Duscher was dismissed for a second caution. Djalminha did pull a goal back for the visitors in the dying seconds but by that the damage was done and it is United, who showed class and concentration throughout, who are now just two games away from a place in the final.
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