Despite getting off to the shakiest of starts, Manchester United came good in the end as two headers from the in-form Wayne Rooney gave them a 3-2 victory over AC Milan at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. For their part, the Rossoneri looked potent in attack but vulnerable in defence, a weakness United ruthlessly exploited to record their first win in five UEFA Champions League games away to the Italians.
By contrast, history was respected in Tuesday's other tie, with Real Madrid losing once again away to a Lyon team barely recognisable from the one struggling to impress on the domestic stage. Los Merengues created a number of chances only to experience a rare bout of profligacy up front, with Jean II Makoun’s winner for the hosts just reward for the more solid and better organised team on the night.
AC Milan 2-3 Manchester United
Goals: Ronaldinho 3, Clarence Seedorf 85 (AC Milan); Paul Scholes 36, Wayne Rooney 66 and 74 (Manchester United)
Lyon 1-0 Real Madrid
Goal: Jean II Makoun 47
Goal of the night
Lyon 1-0 Real Madrid (Jean II Makoun 47)
The Cameroonian midfielder picked up the ball close to the centre circle and surged unchallenged towards goal, before releasing a right-footed shot from 20 metres out that seemed to swerve away from Iker Casillas as it flew towards the top left-hand corner of his goal.
The key moments
A decisive role for Beckham? All eyes were on David Beckham as the Red Devils erstwhile No7 met up with his old club. The England international made an influential start to the match with a free-kick from the right after just three minutes. Patrice Evra failed to clear the delivery and Ronaldinho volleyed past Edwin van der Sar thanks to a deflection off Michael Carrick. Beckham made way for Clarence Seedorf on 72 minutes and his replacement reduced the deficit with an exquisite flick five minutes from time.
Benzema, a caged lion: Raring to be unleashed, Karim Benzema resembled a caged lion on the Madrid bench before being sent on for Gonzalo Higuain with 64 minutes gone. It was his first appearance at the Stade de Gerland since leaving Lyon last summer and the locals accorded him a rousing reception, before watching him give the home side’s well-organised defence a few scares. Eager to make a contribution in front of France coach Raymond Domenech, he set off on a number of runs invariably looking to combine with Cristiano Ronaldo, only for a much-prized goal to elude him.
Rooney continues to fire: The striker helped himself to a pair of headers in the space of less than ten minutes, plundering his ninth and tenth goals in his last eight outings. With 66 minutes gone, and having just come on, substitute Luis Antonio Valencia beat Giuseppe Favalli for pace down the right flank and angled a cross towards the far post, where Rooney headed back across goal and into the far corner beyond the helpless Dida. A few moments later, it was Darren Fletcher’s turn to serve as provider. After making progress down the left, the Scotsman then had time to lift his head and pick out his colleague, who glided in between Milan’s static centre-backs and nodded powerfully in.
FIFA World Cup™ contenders
The players sure of earning a ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa enjoyed a mostly successful evening, with Wayne Rooney chief among them courtesy of his pair of strikes. For his part, Ronaldinho weighed in with a goal and an assist, while appearing to be in superb shape and regularly getting the better of his 19-year-old compatriot Rafael, all of which ought to earn him points with Brazil coach Dunga. In contrast, Alessandro Nesta’s hopes of returning to the Azzurri rearguard took a dent after he put in a performance well shy of his best from years gone by.
Round of 16 first leg - Wednesday 17 February (second legs to be held 9 March)
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