21/10/2009 15:50, Report by Gemma Thompson
CSKA Moscow 0 United 1
The Reds may not have left the Luzhniki Stadium with a trophy this time, but Sir Alex's men departed Russia on a high once more after Antonio Valencia struck his second goal in two games to secure a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow.
United deservedly reaped maximum reward for a patient and professional performance when Valencia, who had earlier clattered the woodwork, fired home in the 86th minute to maintain the Reds' perfect record in Group B.
Sir Alex was without five first-team regulars for the trip to Russia with Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher, Ji-sung Park and Ryan Giggs all nursing knocks back in Manchester. But with his side in pole position in the group, there was no need to go for the jugular and that was illustrated in his team selection with John O’Shea providing defensive steel alongside Paul Scholes in central midfield. Anderson, Nani and Valencia provided the attacking threat with Dimitar Berbatov up front on his own.
The Reds dominated much of the early exchanges with Nani, who looped a curling effort just over the bar on two minutes, and Champions League debutant Fabio linking up particularly well down the left flank. Juande Ramos’ CSKA side were not about to be overawed however and Milos Krasic almost made the most of a rare defensive lapse by fellow countryman Nemanja Vidic after four minutes, but the Serbian attacker’s well-struck drive flew high and wide.
Much had been made about the Luzhniki’s plastic pitch before the game and it almost led to a United opener on 25 minutes. Paul Scholes took aim with a 20-yard screamer which bounced just in front of CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. The Russian stopper's parry could have gone anywhere and he was no doubt relived to see the ball bounce up over the bar and away for a corner.
The Reds continued to open the home side up down the flanks, but the killer final ball continued to be elusive. CSKA,