Thursday 08 November 2012
On a positive night for Barclays Premier League clubs in Europe both Chelsea and Manchester United came through testing UEFA Champions League group matches with three-goal victories.
Although they left it late to edge their group win against Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo paid tribute to his side for the "spirit they showed to keep going until the end".
"We knew we probably needed to score a goal from a set-play at the end and we did so"
Roberto Di Matteo
The Blues twice took the lead against the Ukrainian champions at Stamford Bridge, thanks to a moment of opportunism by Fernando Torres and a stroke of genius by Oscar, who sent goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov's headed clearance back over his head with a smart volley from distance, but Shakhtar twice responded through Willian.
In the fourth minute of added time, substitute Victor Moses rose unmarked to plant Juan Mata’s corner into the top corner for a dramatic winner.
“It was crucial for us to win this home game,” said Di Matteo. "It was always going to be a tough game to beat a side with little details.
"The spirit the group showed again to just keep going to the end. We knew we probably needed to score a goal from a set-play at the end and we did so. It was good that Victor got on the end of the corner."
Chelsea’s win took them to second place in the Group E with two matches remaining, level on seven points with leaders Shakhtar and one point ahead of Serie A champions Juventus, whom they face in Turin on 20 November.
Chelsea 3-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
Juventus 4-0 Nordsjælland
Assistant manager Mike Phelan was "thankful" as Manchester United booked their passage into the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 triumph in Braga.
"Now we can look forward to our league football and kick on in the Champions League when it matters"
Despite the emphatic scoreline, United had to come from behind for the third European match in succession and only produced their goals in the last 10 minutes.
On the eve of the match Sir Alex Ferguson had voiced faith in his attacking options and Robin van Persie justified his manager's confidence when he came off the bench to cancel out Alan's second-half penalty in the 80th minute, while fellow strikers Wayne Rooney, from the spot, and Javier Hernandez, in an added time, completed the scoring.
In rainswept conditions Braga put up a brave fight in a match that had to be halted in the second half due to floodlight failure, but Ferguson's side responded and with 12 points from four matches are guaranteed a first-place finish in Group H.
"We made it a difficult game," said Phelan. "We're thankful that we got the points and are now [guaranteed to be] top of the group. Now we can look forward to our league football and kick on in the Champions League when it matters.
"Winning by that scoreline was a little bit surprising. All we did in the first half was keep possession. We only got started when we upped the tempo, and Robin van Persie was instrumental in getting us further up the field."
SC Braga 1-3 Manchester United
CFR Cluj 1-3 Galatasaray