Real Sociedad de Fútbol finally secured their first point and clean sheet in UEFA Champions League Group A, a draw with Manchester United FC maintaining their slim hopes of reaching the knockout stages.
Jagoba Arrasate's side now need to beat both FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer 04 Leverkusen while hoping other results go their way – and to do that they will need to rediscover their scoring touch having managed just one goal in four games to date. Indeed this result only came courtesy of United substitute Robin van Persie hitting the post twice within six minutes of coming on, the latter from a 69th-minute penalty, and Javier Hernández squandering the best chance of a contest that lacked goals but not drama, added to by Marouane Fellaini's late red card.
There was nothing to criticise Arrasate's team in terms of endeavour or energy; nor did they appear weighed down by the burden of having lost their first three matches. The Txuri-urdin were under orders not to fall behind to United, either as early as they had done at Old Trafford or by being caught out having over-staffed a surge forward.
Considering how Real Sociedad had conceded late goals against Shakhtar and Leverkusen, and were beaten in Manchester due to a second-minute strike, measures were duly taken. Antoine Griezmann, nominally the third striker, often had to drift deep into his own half for good possession and Imanol Agirretxe, preferred to Haris Seferovic, seemed isolated. That set-up contributed to the narrative as, right until the last seconds before the break, it was defenders who produced the sparkling moments.
First to shine was Markel Bergara, diving in to prevent Hernández from converting Shinji Kagawa's cross. Nemanja Vidić emulated him with a fabulous sliding tackle on Carlos Vela as half-time approached. There was still time for one last threat before the interval, Alberto de la Bella cutting inside and sliding a fierce shot within a hair's breadth of the far United post.
When better things came, they were wrapped in red. Kagawa, sprightly all night, put a cross on a plate for Hernández to somehow slice over from two metres. Then substitutes Ashley Young and Van Persie combined within seconds of coming on, only for the Dutchman to thump a shot off the right-hand upright.
Five minutes later came an even better opportunity as Bergara impeded Young. However, Van Persie hit precisely the same part of Claudio Bravo's right-hand post and, with Fellaini collecting a second yellow card in the 90th minute, United's evening ended in frustration. They remain a point clear in the standings, though, while La Real are still four points adrift at the bottom.
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