For the second match running, Manchester United FC came from behind to overcome SC Braga, goals in the last ten minutes from Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández securing a victory that assured the three-time European champions of first place in Group H.
The Red Devils found themselves two goals down to Alan's double at Old Trafford in the corresponding fixture a fortnight ago, mounting a stirring comeback to eventually prevail 3-2. There was more of the same here, Alan firing the Portuguese side in front from the penalty spot early in the second half but, just as Braga began dreaming of three welcome points, Van Persie rose from the bench to bring United level. Rooney's spot kick completed the turnaround, with Hernández forcing in a late third to rubber-stamp United's ticket for the UEFA Champions League's last 16 with two games to spare.
Prior to the first meeting between these clubs at the Estádio Municipal de Braga, Arsenalistas coach José Peseiro said his team would attack their opponents as they sought a similar start to the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, where they scored twice in the first 20 minutes. Braga duly began strongly with the threatening Éder rifling wide of David de Gea's upright after latching onto Douglão's pass. Rúben Micael's subsequent run and shot kept United on the back foot.
Attempting to extend an impressive home record of four victories without conceding against English sides in the last five years, Braga went closer still to the breakthrough in the 22nd minute. Éder met Hugo Viana's centre with a diving header that struck the base of De Gea's right upright before bouncing to safety.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men boasted their own impressive run on Portuguese soil having lost just twice in eleven visits but the Premier League leaders were largely frustrated in an opening period in which they failed to create a clear-cut chance. Those niggling worries multiplied four minutes into the second half when Jonny Evans felled Custódio inside the area, Alan smashing his penalty past De Gea.
After a 12-minute break when the lights went out, the 2011 UEFA Europa League finalists went in search of more and, under pouring rain, De Gea had to leap to palm out Nuno André Coelho's bending free-kick. United responded by bringing on Van Persie and the move paid dividends in the 80th minute, the Dutch international racing onto Anderson's pass on the left and lifting the ball over the advancing Beto with the goalkeeper caught out of position.
That sparked a momentum shift and, with United now pressing, Coelho caught Rooney as the United forward latched onto a loose ball inside the box; the No10 picked himself up to send Beto the wrong way from the spot. Worse was to follow for Braga as Hernández made it three from close range in added time, giving United an eight-point lead at the top of the standings and leaving their opponents down in fourth position.