RC Deportivo La Coruña went out of the UEFA Champions League on a high note after beating an under strength Manchester United FC side 2-0 in their UEFA Champions League Group D match at the Riazor stadium. Víctor Sánchez weighed in with a first-half goal and it was from his cross that Mark Lynch headed into his own net for the second.
Playing for pride
With United having guaranteed top spot in the group before kick-off, and qualification impossible for Deportivo, the game was played for nothing but pride. Both sides were bereft of many first-team players, but the hosts certainly fielded the more experienced line-up.
Juan Valerón, the Spanish international midfield player, made his first start after a long-term shin injury and ran the game from the beginning. His measured passing found a willing target in Albert Luque, whose pace caused Laurent Blanc continuous trouble.
With United fielding four inexperienced youngsters, Deportivo dominated the match from the whistle, retaining possession with relative ease. They almost took the lead on 19 minutes, when Roberto Acuña's shot from 20 metres went narrowly wide.
Ryan Giggs made a typical jinking run into the box, and when his shot seemingly struck the hand of Jorge Andrade, the visitors appealed for a penalty – to no avail. Deportivo then took a deserved lead on 32 minutes. Luque left Blanc in his wake and squared the ball across the face of goal. Víctor got on the end of it and converted the simplest of chances.
Sir Alex Ferguson replaced Lee Roche with Michael Stewart at the break, but the change failed to have the desired effect. Only two minutes into the second half, Deportivo had scored a second. Víctor found space on the right, and his curling cross was headed into his own net by an unfortunate Lynch.
United nearly scored on 62 minutes however. Giggs rounded Dani Mallo on the right of the box and delayed his cross, eventually pulling back to Darren Fletcher, whose shot was cleared off the line. Luque almost scored from the subsequent counterattack, but the chance lifted United.
Giggs goes close
Giggs hit the post seven minutes later, turning smartly in the box to shoot left-footed, as United played their best football in the middle of the second half. But Ferguson opted to withdraw both Giggs and Diego Forlán on 72 minutes, throwing on Danny Webber and Kieran Richardson.
Deportivo's width continued to cause problems as the game drew to a close, although John O'Shea displayed real defensive quality when his 79th-minute challenge dispossessed Luque as he looked to claim the goal his performance deserved.
Despite this mini-revival from the young visitors, the game ended on a sour note for United after Phillip Neville mistimed a challenge on Luque with only eight minutes to go. The England international defender was booked, suspending him for the first leg of United's forthcoming quarter-final.