Sunday, July 14, 2024

Berbatov hits brace to end Danish dreams

Manchester United dashed hopes of a Danish fairy tale after Dimitar Berbatov scored his first two goals for the club in a 3-0 victory over Aalborg here on Tuesday.

Home manager Bruce Rioch had promised that an Aalborg win would trigger an “earthquake” in the 10,800-capacity Energi Nord Arena.

But a first-half strike from Wayne Rooney and Berbatov's second-half brace secured a comfortable away victory that kick-starts the holders' Champions League campaign after a disappointing goalless draw in their opener against Villarreal.

United's offensive strategy rattled Rioch's team as Sir Alex Ferguson's side took charge of the game immediately, nearly scoring twice within the first 10 minutes.

Rooney's back-heeled through-ball to Ronaldo forced home 'keeper Karim Zazinto into a hurried clearance which hit the Portuguese winger and ballooned into the air.

Former Tottenham striker Berbatov was the first to react but sliced his volley wide.

Two minutes later Nani swung a dangerous corner into the penalty area which reached captain Rio Ferdinand unmarked at the far post.

The England defender caught his volley sweetly but found Zaza equal to the task once more, the linesman waving away suggestions that the ball had crossed the line.

The Reds received a blow in the 11th minute when experienced midfielder Paul Scholes was carried off with suspected knee ligament damage.

The home fans were anxious that the pattern of the match had been set, and were heartened by a dangerous incursion into the visitors' half.

AaB left-back Thomas Enevoldsen made an adventurous surge down the left wing before curling a wicked low ball across the six-yard area.

Polish striker Marek Saganowski failed narrowly to connect but the ball fell to winger Jeppe Curth, whose shot was blocked by an alert Patrice Evra.

The home fans' respite was brief as the English visitors continued to threaten.

Ex-Fluminense defender Rafael was the next United player to come close with a ferocious long-range drive which seemed to move markedly in the air, causing Zaza to fend off tentatively.

A goal for the Red Devils seemed inevitable so it proved in the 22nd minute when Rooney kept a cool head to register his 12th goal in the Champions League proper.

Veteran winger Ryan Giggs, Scholes's replacement, slipped a cute pass inside defender Michael Beauchamp which Rooney collected before finishing neatly under Zaza.

The Danes responded immediately and would have scored had Ferdinand not produced a last-ditch tackle to deny right-back Kasper Bogelund.

Ronaldo came close to doubling the lead on two occasions but his first attempt went over the crossbar and the second was palmed away by the overworked Zaza.

Any thoughts of a giant-killing act were dashed 10 minutes after half-time when Bulgarian forward Berbatov showed finally why Ferguson splashed out 30.75 million pounds on him on transfer deadline day.

The fomer Bayer Leverkusen striker had defender Steve Olfers to thank after a suicidal pass across his own 18-yard line presented him with the ball, but his thunderous drive into the bottom corner of the goal was all his own work.

Rioch's men seemed resigned to their fate as United continued to create chances, Ronadlo and substitute Tevez both coming close to scoring a third.

After waiting over three games to break his duck, Berbatov made it two with a fine volley.

Ronaldo jinked his way down the right-wing before delivering a floted cross which the Bulgarian guided expertly over his shouloder and into the goal.


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