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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 21:47 GMT
Man Utd 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
By Phil McNulty

Cristiano Ronaldo is congratulated by Owen Hargreaves after his winner
Cristiano Ronaldo is congratulated by Owen Hargreaves after his winner
Cristiano Ronaldo's late strike gave Manchester United victory against Sporting Lisbon to ensure they finish top of their Champions League group.

Ronaldo fired in a superb injury-time free-kick to sink battling Sporting and take the pressure off United for their final group game away to AS Roma.

Abel beat Tomasz Kuszczak at his near post to put Sporting ahead early on.

But substitute Carlos Tevez levelled from close range on the hour to set up Ronaldo's grandstand finish.

United will now get a more favourable draw in the last 16 knockout stages after topping Group F.

Ronaldo was restored to their starting line-up after the defeat at Bolton - but he had little impact on a low-key first 45 minutes.


He did create one chance for Louis Saha with a brilliant flick after 18 minutes, but the striker pulled his shot wide.

Sporting took the lead in bizarre circumstances three minutes later when Abel's speculative shot from near the touchline caught out Kuszczak and flew in at his near post.

They could have added a second almost instantly, but Liedson's finish was ruled out for offside - a marginal decision at best.

As United struggled to maintain any attacking rhythm, Sporting were shooting on sight and Anderson Polga shocked Kuszczak with a snap-shot that the keeper held at the second attempt.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson made a double substitution at half-time, sending on Tevez and Ryan Giggs for Nani and Darren Fletcher.

Giggs almost created an equaliser for United after 58 minutes when Nemanja Vidic met his corner but headed just wide.

United did not have long to wait to restore equality, levelling on the hour when Ronaldo's shot was deflected in off a combination of Tevez and Sporting defender Marian Had.

Tevez then set up Ronaldo for a fierce angled drive, but his effort was well blocked by Sporting keeper Rui Patricio.

Owen Hargreaves was introduced with 12 minutes left, and he almost scored with only his second touch, forcing another fine save out of the impressive Patricio from Anderson's pass.

But with time running out and United looking like they might need something from their trip to Roma to win their group, Ronaldo fired in a brilliant swerving free-kick to seal the win.

  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson:
    "The important thing in the second half was our impetus and the change of pace, and Carlos Tevez helped that with his positional play.

    "His running caused them problems and I'm delighted he got the equaliser because he deserved that.

    "It is important in the sense that when we go to Rome I will be able to use all my squad. One or two might not travel because there's an important game coming up against Liverpool.

    "It was a marvellous strike by Cristiano Ronaldo. He's done it before, he works very hard at that but it was a truly exceptional goal.

    "I think that he always wants to do well against his old club because he owes a lot to Sporting Lisbon - they found him as a boy, he respects that and has great admiration for the club."

    Man Utd: Kuszczak, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson, Fletcher (Tevez 46), Nani (Giggs 46), Saha (Hargreaves 79).
    Subs Not Used: Van der Sar, Brown, Pique, Simpson.

    Booked: Ronaldo, Evra.

    Goals: Tevez 61, Ronaldo 90.

    Sporting Lisbon: Rui Patricio, Abel, Anderson Polga, Tonel, Had, Izmailov (Bruno Pereirinha 81), Joao Moutinho, Romagnoli (Vukcevic 67), Veloso, Purovic (Farnerud 81), Liedson.
    Subs Not Used: Tiago, Adrien Silva, Gladstone, Yannick Pupo.

    Booked: Had, Anderson Polga.

    Goals: Abel 22.

    Att: 75,162.

    Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).

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