Valencia 0-1 Man Utd
Javier Hernandez struck an 85th-minute winner for Manchester United against Valencia at the Mestalla to earn Sir Alex Ferguson's side their first UEFA Champions League triumph in Group C.
After playing out a disappointing goalless draw in their opening game against Rangers, United looked set for another one-point haul as they attempted to restrict Los Che while offering little in an attacking sense.
However, with five minutes left on the clock, substitute Hernandez rounded off a swift counter-attack, firing home the decisive goal as he took one touch before lashing into the bottom corner.
Instead of having ground to make up in the battle to reach the knock-out phase, United can now look forward to back-to-back clashes with Group C makeweights Bursaspor knowing six points will virtually secure their place in the last 16 of this season's Champions League.
Having called for greater defensive solidity, the return of Rio Ferdinand ensured Ferguson got it and now United will hope to take that form into their Premier League challenge as well following recent hiccups.
Ferguson only needed to look at the record books to understand how hard it would be to win.
On 18 trips to Spain to face Spanish opposition, the solitary victory came against Deportivo La Coruna in 2002.
United's last three visits had ended goalless, which would probably have been an acceptable outcome from what on paper at least is their hardest Group C fixture, even taking into account that surprising stalemate with Rangers at Old Trafford a fortnight ago.
It seemed Valencia would not be too displeased either given the cautious manner with which they attempted to find a way through a side for whom Dimitar Berbatov was expecting forward support from Anderson.
Berbatov last started a match in this competition in Moscow 11 months ago. It was 12 months prior to that since his last goal.
He came close to ending the drought when he cut inside from the left touchline where he spent so much time and curled a shot just wide.
That represented the sum total of United's threat to the Valencia goal, although, with Rio Ferdinand back to reinforce their own rearguard, they looked far more secure than in recent weeks and restricted their hosts to general pressure rather than clear-cut opportunities.
Their best came through a rare mistake from Edwin van der Sar, who completely failed to cut out Alejandro Dominguez's right-wing cross.
Roberto Soldado seemed to be waiting more in hope than expectation of getting his head on the ball and it showed as he reacted to what was actually a clear sight of goal far too slowly and turned it over.
Pablo Hernandez was Valencia's danger-man, though, fizzing a couple of crosses into dangerous areas before the break, then firing wide of the far-post immediately after it after he had cut in from his right-wing station.
Ferguson needed his side to make better use of their possession.
Park Ji-sung was lucky to survive into the second period after receiving a rocket from his manager for giving the ball away rather too often.
Berbatov is rarely guilty of that offence and after bursting past David Navarro failed to take his second opportunity of the game when Cesar Sanchez made an important feet-first save, even if the Bulgarian had been trying to score from an acute angle.
With a combined debt of £1.136billion - building work on a new stadium that started in 2007 has stopped completely and David Villa and David Silva were sold to Barcelona and Manchester City in the summer to ease Valencia's financial situation - the winning prize money would come in handy.
Neither side looked like getting one, or deserved to given the paucity of chances.
The introduction of Manuel Fernandes did trigger an improvement from Valencia.
Van der Sar needed to push away the midfielder's long-range effort before Soldado came close to turning home Aritz Aduriz's cross with a desperate attempt at a diving header.
It looked for all the world like ending in a stalemate. Hernandez had other ideas.
Latest Forum Comments
Very happy with that. Exactly right to say it was a typical away performance - keep it tight at the back then play on the break late on. What worked is that we were once again solid at the back- Vidic and Rio awesome and Rafael did a good job too. If we had been as sloppy as other recent games it would have turned out different. As for the trip, we flew out Tuesday to avoid the strikes. Fantastic weather, great city, haslse free trip and all in all a great one. Stadium is falling apart but our view was good, and the only problems people had were collecting tickets not in their names. V strict collection and apparently 500 were not picked up.- Oli
Defensively Rio made a world of difference, although we still had the odd shaky moment in the first half. I also thought Rafael did enough to suggest he's a better right-back than O'Shea. He was more solid defensively than usual and gives us so much more dynamism going forward. Not wanting to take away from what was an excellent result, but the quality of our passing in the absence of Scholes left a lot to be desired. I'm confident Carrick - with games - will come good again, and I suppose we have to hope the same with Anderson. But I still feel we're missing an ingenious creative central midfield player. Despite his volatility, Spurs look to have found a steal in Rafael Van der Vaart. Someone who can do similar things to him, or Wesley Schneider, Jack Wilshere... that sort of a player. With Valencia out and Giggs missing for a bit we are down to our bare bones on the flanks, unless either Bebe or Obertan steps up to the plate. Park is a willing runner and very likeable, but he's physically weak, skilfully limited and not particularly fast. There's no doubt we've gone backwards in the past two years and it makes a mockery of Fergie's claim that there was no-one available in the transfer market who would have improved our squad.- Neil
Typical euro away display. Everything about it confirmed my opinion if how badly Evans has started the season, with Rio back Fergie was able to use the Rafael instead of the man who has an Imelda Marcos like range of Fray Bentos goodies in stock at all times. The impact the subs had was reassuring, Macheda looks to be maturing nicely & Hernandez will only get better the more he plays. I'mmuch more optimistic about the trip to Sunderlsnd after last might.- jonny
Really surprised by Macheda's last two outings for us...done very well... Superbly taken goal by the little pea, great first touch, and before the blink of an eye he finished it..- Zain
Fantastic win in the end, glad to see positive substitutions and the two subs combining for the goal. Much better display at the back given the number of dangerous crosses they got in.- fenwar
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