United, Chelsea stay on winning path

Carrick seals comeback against Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg as Milan humbled

PARIS: Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid kept up their 100 per cent start in the Champions League on Wednesday – but the English pair both had to scrap for narrow wins over Wolfsburg and Apoel Nicosia. Michael Carrick secured a 2-1 win for United as the English Premier League champions came back from a goal down to edge their German opponents at Old Trafford.

Carrick swept home a fine strike 12 minutes from the end, after Ryan Giggs’ deflected free kick had cancelled out Edin Dzeko’s shock 57th-minute opener for the visitors.

United coach Sir Alex Ferguson, chasing his third triumph in the event after successes in 1999 and 2008, paid tribute to his side, and Giggs in particular, after the Welsh winger scored his 150th goal for the club.

“I thought it was just a matter of time before we did score,” Ferguson told ITV. “They never give in – they always keep on playing.”

Giggs, however, was dismissive of his landmark goal.

“Obviously, I was proud to do it, but it was more important we won the game,” said the 35-year-old, who added: “We showed great character to come back.”

The only dark cloud for United was the sight of Michael Owen going off at half-time with a recurrence of a groin strain that could keep him out for up to three weeks.

United’s vanquished 2008 final opponents Chelsea had a first-half goal from Nicolas Anelka to thank for a 1-0 win away to the Cypriots of Apoel Nicosia.

With five-time champions Liverpool having suffered a Tuesday setback at Fiorentina, the onus was on the English sides to showcase the Premier League and United and Chelsea did not disappoint, even if their winning margins were wafer-thin.

Carlo Ancelotti suggested his Chelsea had had an eye on a weekend league tussle with Liverpool as they managed to do just enough on Cyprus.

“I am not satisfied because we have to play better with more control and courage. We will not play like today (against Liverpool), we will play better for sure,” he stressed.

In United’s Group B, CSKA Moscow bounced back defeat at Wolfsburg to edge Turkish champions Besiktas 2-1, Alan Dzagoev and Milos Krasic scoring for the Russians with Ismail Koybasi on target for the visitors, already beaten at home by United.

Chelsea rivals Porto followed up a narrow loss at Stamford Bridge with a 2-0 success at home to Spain’s Atletico Madrid after late goals from Radamel Falcao and Rolando.

Elsewhere, former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Kaka once for Real Madrid as the Spaniards, desperate to add a tenth crown after seven barren seasons in Europe, dispatched Marseille 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Group C rivals and seven-time winners AC Milan suffered a humiliating 1-0 home loss to Zurich of Switzerland.

Centre-back Hannu Tihinen scored with a neat first-half backheel to increase the pressure on AC Milan coach Leonardo, whose team have endured a miserable start to the   season.

“We’re struggling to do what we want to do, we have the desire but we’re not managing to do it,” a disconsolate Leonardo admitted.

Real, in contrast, are on a roll, though they were ordinary for an hour before three goals in six minutes flattened Marseille.

Ronaldo nudged home the first after 58 minutes after running onto a lofted pass from Pepe – coincidentally just as Giggs was netting for United with the kind of free kick the Portuguese would normally have taken before his 94 million-euro move to Spain in the summer.

Kaka netted from the spot after Souleymane Diawara had fouled Ronaldo to earn a red card and the contest was over on 63 minutes when, in a goal created by 200 million euros of fresh talent, Kaka fed Karim Benzema, who teed up Ronaldo five yards out.

In Group A, French playmaker Franck Ribery of four-time champions Bayern Munich did his utmost to prise open the defence of two-time winners Juventus but the Bavarians had to settle for a goalless stalemate, while French pacesetters Bordeaux had to wait until the closing minutes for Michael Ciani to head the winner against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa. — AFP

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