Champions League: Ronaldo, Sancho send Manchester United to knockout round; Lewandowski leads COVID-hit Bayern Munich to win at Dynamo Kiev; Barcelona draw with Benfica


Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho sent Manchester United into the Champions League round of 16 as Michael Carrick’s interim tenure started with a 2-0 win over Villarreal at La Ceramica on Tuesday.

Portugal captain Ronaldo has scored in each of United’s five Champions League matches so far and netted either a late winner or equaliser in the last four in Group F.

Carrick made four changes from the 4-1 humbling at Watford on Saturday, which sealed former Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fate, with Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek, Fred and Anthony Martial starting.

Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were surprisingly left on the bench.

There was a lengthy delay to kick off due to a communication issue for the match officials and there were audible boos from the crowd as the visiting players took a knee.

It was a fairly even first half with neither side creating clear-cut chances before United goalkeeper David de Gea produced a stunning save as he clawed Manu Trigueros’ effort over the bar on 59 minutes.

With Villarreal starting to take control in the match, Carrick sent on Fernandes and Rashford on 66 minutes and the substitutions produced a complete change in momentum as United began to grow in the game.

With the game petering out to a draw, Ronaldo capitalised on a defensive mix-up after Fred had tackled Etienne Capoue to lob the ball over Geronimo Rulli.

Having come close to scoring earlier, Sancho finally did score his first for United as he rifled in a shot after a counterattack involved Rashford and Fernandes.

“It’s not been an easy couple of days for anyone at the club and that result almost feels like it’s for Ole,” Carrick said after the match.

“We had a job to do and things needed to be taken care of. I was happy to do it and thankfully it all went to plan.

“When you’ve suffered results-wise and aren’t in good form, individually and as a team, it’s not easy to come out and let everything click. We had to show some character and fight,” he said.

After shipping four or more goals three times in their last seven matches, Carrick will have been delighted with how solid United’s defence looked as they claimed their first clean sheet of this Champions League campaign.

This was also United’s first away win in the league since they beat Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in October 2020. 
Also, Bayern Munich, missing half a dozen players to COVID-19 quarantine, edged past Dynamo Kiev 2-1 on Tuesday.

The team also secured top spot in Champions League Group E with a game to spare.

First-half goals from striker, Robert Lewandowski, who struck with a spectacular 14th-minute overhead kick, and Kingsley Coman, three minutes from halftime and amid heavy snowfall, put the German champions in front.

Dynamo, who are now eliminated from the competition, cut the deficit with their maiden group-stage goal through Denys Garmash in the 70th minute.

They then forced Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to make a fine save in the 75th and hit the post in stoppage time as they looked for an equaliser with a strong finish.

The Bavarians, desperate to bounce back from Friday’s shock of 2-1 loss to Augsburg in the Bundesliga, top the group on 15 points with five wins from five games.

They are also unbeaten in a record-extending 21 consecutive Champions League away games.

Barcelona, who face Benfica later, are in second place on six points and the Portuguese side are third on four, with Dynamo bottom on one point.

“It was maybe not our best performance but overall we are satisfied with the Champions League so far with five wins from five games and 15 points.

“It was important to focus on the task today and put all the other issues aside,” he added, referring to an ongoing debate over the vaccination of players.

“But that is not that easy when you have a different squad with players who would normally not start.”

Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann’s options were extremely limited with only four outfield players on the bench.

But Lewandowski, who has now scored in each of his last nine Champions League appearances, struck with the first chance of the game.

A cross into the box bounced awkwardly off a Dynamo defender, and the Polish striker connected with an acrobatic bicycle kick.

The hosts almost scored an equaliser when Neuer attempted to clear a ball in the box but miskicked, sending it bouncing onto the post and wide.

Instead, Coman doubled their lead three minutes before halftime, drilling in from a Corentin Tolisso cross that Lewandowski let slip through his legs.

Neuer made amends for his earlier mistake with a double save to stop Mykola Shaparenko two minutes after the restart to protect their two-goal lead.

But he was beaten when Garmash slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs for 2-1.

Dynamo were the stronger side in the closing minutes and kept Neuer busy before Viktor Tsygankov struck the post with a long range effort in stoppage time.

FC Barcelona and Benfica played out a thrilling goalless draw in the Champions League in Xavi Hernandez’s second match in charge on a rainy night at the Camp Nou.

The match was Xavi’s first in charge of a Champions League match for FC Barcelona after leading the team to a 1-0 win against Espanyol in his LaLiga opener since taking the reins for the Catalans.

FC Barcelona had the better of the play in the first half, executing crisp passing in the final third and hitting on the counter when the chance arose, but the end product was missing.

Benfica’s Roman Yaremchuk had a close-range header turned away by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Yusuf Demir hit the post with a lovely curling shot soon after as the opening 45 minutes ended scoreless.

Benfica’s Nicolas Otamendi intervened with a sliding tackle just before the hour mark to deny Memphis Depay an excellent goalscoring chance from close range as the score stayed 0-0.

Ronald Araújo looked to have scored a classy winner shortly before the end of the match, but the goal was ruled out for offside and both teams settled for a point on the night. 


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