Manchester United FC produced yet another late winner as they defeated PFC CSKA Moskva thanks to an 86th-minute goal from Antonio Valencia.
The Ecuadorean winger followed up his first United goal last weekend by opening his UEFA Champions League account, beating Igor Akinfeev with a far-post shot to secure victory for the English titleholders on their return to the Luzhniki Stadium, scene of their 2008 final victory, and maintain their 100 per cent record at the Group B summit. Sir Alex Ferguson's men won their first two games with goals after 77 and 78 minutes but the fact they had to work even harder will be no consolation to a CSKA side beaten for the second time in three matches.
Neither team entered the contest at full strength. Missing the injured Guilherme, CSKA coach Juande Ramos opted for a 4-4-1-1 system with lone striker Tomáš Necid supported by the lively Alan Dzagoev. United, for their part, had travelled out to Moscow without a handful of regulars – Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Ji-Sung Park – which meant a UEFA Champions League debut for the 19-year-old Brazilian Fabio at left-back.
Nemanja Vidić presented an early opportunity to the hosts when ceding possession but Miloš Krasić failed to direct his shot on target. If the game was unfolding at a slow pace that was through no fault of Fabio, the United teenager playing an active part down the left, where the visitors did most of their best work. Paul Scholes offered their first serious threat on goal when he tried his luck from distance after 25 minutes – the ball took an awkward bounce in front of Igor Akinfeev and the Russian international goalkeeper had to react smartly to push it over the crossbar.
After headed opportunities for Necid and Berbatov, Krasić came close to opening the scoring for CSKA, firing past the far post from a tight angle on the right side of the United area. United then threatened through an unlikely source as captain Gary Neville picked up Berbatov's flick and tried his luck from distance, his shot striking the top of Akinfeev's net. The tempo picked up further after the restart and there were opportunities at both ends. Dzagoev put the ball in the United net in the 54th minute but was denied by an offside flag while his free-kick led to Sergei Ignashevich shooting just wide. At the other end Akinfeev showed his brilliance on the hour, denying Nani's diving header from Neville's cross.
Typically United started to scent victory in the closing stages. With ten minutes remaining Valencia and Nani exchanged passes on the edge of the box before the Ecuadorian sent the ball crashing against the crossbar. CSKA were trying to catch United on the counterattack but Valencia would not be denied and six minutes later after Berbatov had flicked on Nani's left-wing cross, he turned and fired past Akinfeev. Anderson almost added a second in added time, curling the ball past the far post, but one was enough for United.