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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 21:39 GMT
Forlan sends Man Utd through
Giggs celebrates with goalscorer Forlan
Panathinaikos 0-1 Man Utd

Diego Forlan's late winner stamped Manchester United's passport into the Champions League knockout stage after a low-key encounter against Panathinaikos in Athens.

Forlan made up for missing a string of chances with an 84th-minute strike to give Sir Alex Ferguson's men the result they needed in front of a paltry crowd of less than 7,000.

The small attendance was a reflection on Panathinaikos' own poor showing in the Champions League - and they received little to cheer as United moved comfortably into the next stage thanks to the in-form Uruguayan.

United will be satisfied with their night's work as an under-strength side earned the victory while allowing Ferguson to rest key names ahead of Sunday's Premiership clash with title rivals Chelsea.

Diego could have scored two or three; he is always aware of chances, and his movement was good
Man Utd manager
Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson left Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gary Neville on the bench, but it did not stop United dominating the early exchanges

It needed a desperate clearance from Panathinaikos defender Markus Munch to stop Darren Fletcher stealing onto Ryan Giggs' cross.

Panathinaikos, perhaps with memories of their Old Trafford thrashing still fresh in the memory, adopted an unambitious approach in a disjointed opening half.

And it was Forlan who came closest to breaking the deadlock after 28 minutes, forcing a fine diving save out of Antonis Nikolopodis from 20 yards.

Man Utd's Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand picked up a booking
Panathinaikos demonstrated a greater sense of adventure after the break, and Rio Ferdinand was booked for a foul on Angelos Basinas.

Kleberson was an influential midfield figure, testing Nikolopodis with a long-range free kick on the hour.

And as United pressed, Forlan was guilty of missing the best chance of the game after 61 minutes, pulling a left-foot finish wide following a run by Giggs.

United made a substitution with 17 minutes left, sending on David Bellion for Fletcher.

Forlan was again guilty of wasteful finishing when he was set up by Quinton Fortune, firing narrowly wide from 12 yards when he should have scored.

He needed to make amends - and did so with six minutes left, beating Nikolopodis from the angle after good work by Bellion.


Panathinaikos: Nikopolidis, Seitaridis, Henriksen, Goumas, Munch, Sanmartean (Epalle 45), Basinas, Zutautas, Maric, Konstantinou (Vlaovic 75), Papadopoulos (Sapanis 83).
Subs Not Used: Warzycha, Konstantinidis, Michaelsen, Kotsolis.

Booked: Munch, Goumas.

Man Utd: Howard, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Fortune, Fletcher (Bellion 74), Kleberson, Butt, Ronaldo, Giggs, Forlan.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, van Nistelrooy, Pugh, Tierney.

Booked: Ferdinand.

Attendance: 16,000

Referee: Jan Wegereef (Holland).






WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's Conor McNamara
"Man Utd have made an art form out of not playing well but winning"


Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson
"We didn't make any mistakes, and that was important tonight"




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