Goals in the final six minutes from Paul Scholes and Antonio Valencia took Manchester United FC into the UEFA Champions League first knockout round and denied PFC CSKA Moskva a famous win at Old Trafford.
United have not lost at home in this competition since February 2005 but that record looked set to fall when Alan Dzagoev, Miloš Krasić and Vasili Berezutski gave the visitors a 3-1 advantage. Yet after Scholes had headed a goal back with six minutes remaining, Valencia rescued a point in added time when his long-range shot deflected in off Georgi Schennikov. It was tough on CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, architect of a string of fine saves, whose team then lost Deividas Šemberas to a red card but held on for a well-earned point on a remarkable tournament debut for new coach Leonid Slutski. While United are through, CSKA must beat VfL Wolfsburg in Moscow on 25 November to close the three-point gap to second place in Group B.
The portents hardly favoured a CSKA side with just one victory from 13 previous UEFA Champions League away games and whose coach Slutski had lost to Irish minnows Saint Patrick's Athletic FC on his last trip to the British Isles with former club PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara in July. Yet, urged by captain Akinfeev to emulate compatriots FC Rubin Kazan's shock win at FC Barcelona, they almost caught United cold inside the opening minutes. A three-on-two break ended with Dzagoev shooting over, before Šemberas was equally wayward after riding a couple of tackles minutes later.
A long list of missing regulars subdued United but still they had chances. Owen missed his kick when teed up by Valencia, then Darren Fletcher and Federico Macheda – the former back from injury, the latter appearing for the first time in the competition – sent shots centimetres wide. Yet it was CSKA who broke the deadlock after 25 minutes. Tomáš Necid laid the ball off with his chest to Dzagoev 30 metres from goal and the 19-year-old headed for the United area. Pulling clear of Jonny Evans, he looked to have carried the ball too far wide, only to lash it past Edwin van der Sar from an acute angle. Owen seemed to have restored the natural order when he struck from close range after Nani had flicked on Valencia's cross, his first UEFA Champions League goal since October 2004. Within two minutes, though, CSKA were back in front, Necid flicking on for Krasić to beat the offside trap and round Van der Sar to score.
Although Macheda and Scholes both tested Akinfeev's reflexes, CSKA stunned United with a third goal two minutes after half-time as Berezutski profited from slack marking at the far post to nod in Dzagoev's set-piece. On came new father Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra but United could find no way past Akinfeev who repelled Scholes's free-kick and then produced a fabulous double stop to keep out Owen's header and Rooney's follow-up. United were now laying siege to the CSKA goal and after Macheda's header hit the post, Akinfeev denied Rooney again. The goalkeeper, though, would be powerless in the dramatic conclusion to an absorbing contest.