15 September 2009

Besiktas 0 - 1 Man U, great start to Champions League

Scholes kicks off the UEFA Champions League campaign in great style for the Red Devils

Rooney's reaction to being substituted midway through the second-half of United's narrow victory against Besiktas, marked by a slow march off the pitch and the throwing of his boots to the dug-out floor was pure Ronaldo. Rooney, frustrated by his lack of opportunities in his lone striker role, was at least cheered by Paul Scholes's winning goal on 77 minutes that secured a victory for United in their Group B opener. But his obvious anger at being substituted led to him being goaded by Besiktas supporters behind the dug-out and the arrival of security men, maybe to protect Rooney from himself.

Having suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat against city rivals Galatasaray at the weekend, Besiktas limped into this game already struggling to defend their domestic title. A banner amongst the Besiktas supporters proclaiming 'You are the champions - Believe it!' highlighted the lack of confidence amongst Mustafa Denizli's players.

So, notwithstanding the exuberant, rather than hostile, Besiktas supporters inside the Inonu Stadium, Sir Alex Ferguson could surely not have selected more suitable opponents against whom his players could begin to get last season's Champions League final defeat against Barcelona out of their system.

But the ghosts of Rome returned to haunt United in the early stages. Michael Carrick's carelessness in possession, Anderson's 90 mph approach to the game and nervous moments involving Nemanja Vidic at the heart of the defence.

Despite his advanced position, Rooney proved United's creative force, teeing up both Carrick and Antonio Valencia with good opportunities midway through the first-half.

Rooney was providing the passes that would have been perfect for a strike partner to run onto, yet both Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen spent the first-half watching Rooney's vision go to waste.

While United toiled in search of an opening goal, midfielder Anderson was targeted by a laser pen directed from the crowd. The green light was focused on the Brazilian, who was fortunate to have his back to the beam. Having investigated a similar incident involving Cristiano Ronaldo in a game at Lyon in 2008, Uefa are likely to take steps to stamp out this unwanted and potentially dangerous return of the blight of the laser pen.

Of greater concern to United, though, was their failure to take advantage of opportunities to open the scoring. Valencia's header from Nani's corner was tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Hakan Arikan before Serdar Ozkan's 20-yard shot was deflected over the bar by Jonny Evans.

United's poor finishing was summed up shortly before half-time when Nani wastefully directed a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.

Ferguson confirmed at half-time that he was aware of the green light being shone at his players, none of whom had raised the subject during the interval.

United's only focus was on emerging from Istanbul with an opening day victory and they should have taken an important step towards that end when Carrick somehow failed to put away a chance from six yards two minutes into the second-half.

While the scores remained level, United were vulnerable to Besiktas breaking on the counter-attack and Vidic was exposed by Ozkan on the touchline on 56 minutes when the midfielder escaped the defender before creating two clear efforts that were ultimately dealt with by Ben Foster.

Rooney's departure from the stage saw Berbatov and Owen form a dual strike-force and Owen was harshly ruled offside after being released by the Bulgarian.

But the goal United just about deserved came when Nani's shot, well saved by Arikan, rebounded to Scholes, who headed in from six yards to secure the victory.

Player Ratings (unordered)

1) Foster - 6
2) Evra - 8 - Another 5 Star performance from the Frenchman
3) Evans - 6 - Confused defending
4) Vidic - 7
5) Neville - 7
6) Carrick - 6
7) Anderson - 7
8) Nani - 6.5
PAUL SCHOLES - 8 - Scored an important goal and excellent all-round performance
10) Rooney - 7 - Looked decent, took some chances, was dissapointed to get substituted!
11) Valencia - 6 - Looked better in second half but the first half performance was aweful!
12) Owen (Sub for Rooney) - 6.5 - got some chances, couldnt capitalise on it
13) Berbatov - (Sub for Carric) - 5.5 - probably the worst player of the day
14) Ji Sung Park - (Sub for Valencia) - 6 - Decent

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