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Mata stars as Manchester United see off Wolfsburg

Manchester United 2-1 Wolfsburg 
Juan Mata scored one and brilliantly created the other as Louis van Gaal's side came from behind to join Wolfsburg on three Group B points.

Highlights: Man. United 2-1 Wolfsburg
  • Manchester United fight back to beat Wolfsburg at Old Trafford
  • Daniel Caligiuri gives Wolfsburg fourth-minute lead
  • Juan Mata levels from penalty spot after Caligiuri handball (34)
  • Chris Smalling's 53rd-minute winner means both teams have three Group B points
  • Next matches: CSKA Moskva v Man. United, Wolfsburg v PSV (21 October)

Manchester United came from behind to defeat Wolfsburg and put their first points on the board in UEFA Champions League Group B.

After falling behind to Daniel Caligiuri's early goal, Louis van Gaal's men equalised with a Juan Mata penalty before the Spaniard then set up the winner for Chris Smalling. United have never lost their opening two games in a group stage and that record remains intact thanks to their comeback although Wolfsburg more than played their part in an intriguing contest.

Just as on their first visit here, six years ago to this day, the Bundesliga side took the lead. Caligiuri both started and finished the move that produced the fourth-minute strike as he stepped inside Morgan Schneiderlin before laying the ball back to Julian Draxler. The midfielder worked it across to Max Kruse who completed the triangle with a return pass to Caligiuri and he did the rest, lifting the ball beyond David de Gea.

Blind: United showed spirit

United had plenty of possession but their goal threat was sporadic. Mata saw a curling shot headed behind by Dante, before Anthony Martial fired just over. Midway through the half Martial bamboozled Ricardo Rodriguez down the right but his cross was blazed over by Wayne Rooney.

Instead it was Mata who equalised after 34 minutes, sending Diego Benaglio the wrong way with his spot kick after his centre had struck the outstretched arm of Caligiuri.

Mata turned creator for the second goal. After Wolfsburg failed to clear a United corner, Bastian Schweinsteiger's mis-hit effort landed at the feet of Mata who flicked the ball up over the German team's defence and Smalling reacted first to steer in.

That was the end of the scoring, although Wolfsburg might have levelled during the closing stages when they carved out several chances, notably for substitute André Schürrle who drove an attempt beyond De Gea but past the far post.

Key player: Juan Mata
In his programme notes Van Gaal wrote about the "combination play" from his forwards and nobody does this better than Mata. In the first half he twice teed up Memphis Depay – for a header and shot saved by Benaglio – though nothing could beat his superb piece of improvisation for Smalling's goal.

Chris Smalling and Louis van Gaal
Chris Smalling and Louis van Gaal©Getty Images

Wolfsburg take heart
Wolfsburg returned home empty-handed for the fourth time from England yet can take heart from the fact they put United under considerable late pressure. The sight of Rooney blocking a Dante shot in the final 15 minutes, after brilliant work by Draxler, summed it up.

De Gea back in favour
The United goalkeeper began the season in the Old Trafford stands but the fans were singing his name after he made a crucial stop from Caligiuri shortly after Smalling's eventual clincher.

©Getty Images
©Getty Images
©Getty Images
©Getty Images
©Getty Images
©Getty Images

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