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UEFA Champions League
October 23, 2012
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: M. Mažić
• Attendance: 73195
J. Hernández 25', 75'
J. Evans 62'
Alan 2', 20'
The Carrick-Evans partnership looked less than convincing at times and Sir Alex Ferguson will hope to have Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and, eventually, Nemanja Vidic back sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading - good night!
Chicharito was the hero, scoring goals either side of half-time to lead the fightback. United looked threatening up front all night long, but serious question marks remain at the back.
If your glass is half-full, it's a superb comeback from Manchester United, who trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes. If it's half-empty, the Red Devils made what should have been a straightforward match very difficult for themselves. Regardless, they have three points and they're on the verge of the second round of the Champions League.
90' + 4'
FULL-TIME: Manchester United 3-2 Braga
90' + 1'
Ze Luis has made something of an impact since coming on and does well to take a long pass down but fires a wild shot well wide from the edge of the box. He might have done better to lay the ball off behind him.
Three minutes to be added on at Old Trafford.
Substitute Ze Luis tries to get beyond Rafael as Elderson flicks the ball into the penalty area but he fouls the right-back and United have some respite.
Barbosa fires in a tantalising cross from the left but it's just beyond Eder and De Gea does well to hold on to the ball. United struggling to clear their lines a little here.
Viana's pass towards the arriving Elderson is just too long and the left-back is offside anyway. Alan is withdrawn having scored two goals, with Mossoro his replacement.
It's all a bit scrappy in midfield now. Eder has done a good job in holding the ball up and laying it off up front but after a nice touch from the Portuguese, United manage to crowd Viana and Custodio out and scramble clear. Bit of late pressure coming from the visitors.
Half-chance for Braga when Alan's driven corner is headed goalwards from some way out but De Gea collects. Eder was close to getting a dangerous touch. United break up the other end and after good work between Nani and Cleverley, Van Persie's shot is saved.
Risky from De Gea! He tries to pass the ball out to Cleverley, but Eder shows remarkable stride to slide in and nick it away. If Amorim's first touch is good, he's through on goal - but it isn't, and United are able to shepherd the ball behind for a corner.
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
Viana lines up a long-range shot but it flies wide. That's all for the excellent Chicharito, who is replaced by Giggs.
What can Braga bring to the table now? To be honest, we look more likely to see another United goal. Their control has grown as this match has worn on.
Assist Tom Cleverley
Goal Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
GOAL! The turnaround is complete! United probe away outside the Braga box and force the opposition defenders deep into their own penalty area. After being teed up by Rafael, Cleverley curls in an absolutely sublime cross to the back post and Chicharito powers a header past Beto.
Beto comes to claim a corner but can only keep hold of it at the second attempt. He's shaken slightly by the challenge of Chicharito but is back to his feet now and play goes on.
United break and work the ball to Chicharito, who does well to shake off Salino. He spots Nani breaking into open space on his right and picks him out with a bouncing pass. The Portuguese makes the most of that by electing to volley from 20 yards, and Beto makes a strong save to palm it away. Good chance.
Braga remind United that their attacking threat isn't entirely extinguished, as Alan skips past Fletcher and picks out Eder. The striker can't find the space for a shot, though, and Evans steps in as Braga attempt to work the ball wide.
Rafael volleys a cross towards Van Persie but luckily for Braga, and to the frustration of the Dutchman, it's redirected by the trailing heel of Elderson.
Amorim is fouled in his own half. Amusingly, an elderly lady in the front row has some choice words for the winger. Braga have successfully staved off the immediate United threat, though. It's a bit broken up at the minute with frequent fouls.
Buttner is an aggressive presence at left-back but he can't keep his balance as he attempts to cross this time, and the ball up ends up in the stands.
Chicharito thinks he's in on goal as a pass is delivered behind the defence but he's offside. Braga are trying to get their foot on the ball to slow the building United momentum.
Goal Jonny Evans
GOAL! United are level! Braga have defended set-pieces dependably all evening but are undone by a Van Persie corner here. It's not a particularly good one, but Carrick manages to flick it on at the near post with his back. Evans swings and misses at the first attempt but the ball drops to the turf as Braga scramble to get it clear and the Northern Irishman is able to push it past Beto with his left boot the second time around.
United are much better off the ball at the minute and it's helping them gain possession in dangerous positions. Cleverley gets in on the right this time and provides a low cross but Beto acts decisively to palm the ball away.
Excellent play by Rooney, who steals the ball away from Salino on the United left and swerves a delicious cross into the box. It just evades Chicharito's head and is nicked away before Van Persie can pounce, though.
Rooney tries to curl a ball over the top to Van Persie from the left but Coelho is well-positioned to head clear.
Salino ventures into the United half from right-back but Evans steps in well to stop the play. A counter-attack is on, but Cleverley plays an abysmal pass out for a throw-in. All a bit tepid in the final third for the home team at the moment.
The ball is in the air a bit too much at the minute. Alan, who has not only scored two goals but defended superbly, beats Rooney to a cross delivered by Rafael from the right. After a Braga counter-attack comes to nothing, Hernandez is played in on the left and wins a corner, but Nani heads Rooney's cross well wide.
Van Persie goes for goal despite the tight angle and finds the target, but Beto beats the ball away and it's cleared. United are well on top but Braga are crowding the penalty area effectively.
Yellow Card Ederson Uwa echiejile
Rafael feeds the ball for Cleverley and as he advances to complete a one-two, Elderson blocks him off. He's booked. Van Persie will whip in the free-kick from the left.
Buttner battles with Alan down the left to win a corner. Rooney takes, but again it's dealt with, and Cleverley is offside when the ball comes back into the box.
It has been suggested, by the way, that Kagawa had an injury problem which caused his withdrawal. One wonders whether Ferguson might have changed the shape of his team anyway.
Good play by Nani, who skips past two men by shifting the ball side-to-side twice in quick succession. His blocked shot goes behind for a corner, but it's cleared.
Yellow Card Paulo Vinicius
Looks like the diamond has been ditched. Rooney is on the left wing, with Cleverley and Fletcher in the middle and Nani on the right. Van Persie and Chicharito up top.
We're underway in the second half and Nani has replaced Kagawa.
Sir Alex Ferguson is irritated at Chicharito's disallowed goal, when it was ruled that Kagawa had run on to Van Persie's flick from an offside position. He has the referee to thank for a superb advantage in the build-up to the goal that did stand, though.
The question, it seems, is whether United can tighten up themselves. Eder is a really useful outlet for Braga up front, as evidenced by his recent integration into the Portugal national team.
On the bright side, Chicharito has buzzed around the two centre-backs, Rooney has looked a potent creative force and Van Persie has provided a combination of both. It will take some effort for Braga to keep them at bay for another 45 minutes.
The problems? Carrick has looked in trouble when isolated against Eder. Alan has been able to run across Buttner almost entirely unnoticed. And Viana has been able to ping the ball around midfield at will.
The referee plays all of two seconds of added time, which means that Braga lead at Old Trafford at the break. I think that half has made clear that the diamond is purely tailored to suit the club's array of forwards rather than improve their shaky defensive record.
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME: Manchester United 1-2 Braga
Braga have a chance to counter-attack with four men against four but they take too long and end up going all the way back to their goalkeeper.
Calm play from Coelho, heading across to Vinicius with Chicharito lurking for the slightest error. They pass it clear once more though. Composed stuff from the visitors.
Good play between Rooney and Van Persie ends with the ball finding Rafael on the right. He wins a corner with his cross. Van Persie delivers, but Beto punches away.
Rafael scampers around outside the Braga penalty area and lays the ball of for Van Persie, whose lateral movement has been very good. The former Arsenal man's cross is cut out easily, though.
Braga enjoy a good spell of possession without getting very near the United goal. Viana has a magic wand of a left foot. United eventually win the ball and break through Cleverley on the right, but his pass into Chicharito is too long. Salino has to concede the throw-in, though.
Buttner advances forward and attempts to skip past Salino but goes down under the challenge of the right-back. Buttner appeals furiously but there did not seem to be much contact at all.
Nearly an excellent goal for United. Rooney starts things again, measuring a pass into the feet of Van Persie. He touches the ball on to the onrushing Kagawa, but the Japanese is offside. Kagawa was ready to nudge it square to leave Chicharito with an open goal.
For all their other flaws, the trio of Rooney, Van Persie and Chicharito (or Welbeck) has been fun to watch so far. Rooney tries a chip into the box but Beto collects with ease.
Rooney slips in Van Persie on the left and the Dutchman's low cross is perfectly placed. Chicharito pokes a toe towards it but doesn't get much contact at all, and Beto dives to deflect the ball to safety.
Unconvincing play in defence again by United. Rafael heads a cross behind for a corner but the Red Devils make a mess of dealing with it. It's eventually cleared only as far as Alan, who, from 25 yards, volleys a couple of yards wide. He's on a hat-trick.
An excellent pass from Rooney allows Van Persie to advance towards goal. He controls the ball with his chest on the run and turns away from Coelho, but drills a right-footed shot wide.
We know United have goals in them, but they need two more here now. It should be said that Chicharito and Van Persie have actually started quite brightly, in contrast to most of the rest of the team.
Assist Shinji Kagawa
Goal Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
GOAL! United have one back! Excellent work by Van Persie on the left, who tricks his way past Alan and is bodychecked by Salino. The referee does superbly to recognise the advantage, though, and waves play on. Kagawa picks up the ball and crosses for the back post where Chicharito stretches to nod past Beto. Game on!
Rooney is the culprit on the ball this time as Braga again win possession in the United half. It leads to a corner after nice work from Micael, but Carrick clears.
Frustration grows in the crowd as United give the ball away in their own half. Fletcher sends a wayward pass towards Buttner that Alan cuts out, and after combining with Micael he crosses to Eder but the striker can't take it down without escaping the attention of Rafael.
Kagawa's long pass towards Chicharito looks promising but is well-defended by Vinicius, who heads clear.
GOAL! Braga have another! De Gea can barely believe his eyes, but he has little chance here. Again, Alan runs across Buttner and Evans completely unnoticed. Eder shakes off Carrick like he's not there on the left, cuts into the box and lays on a pass that the winger slots home from eight yards.
Van Persie peels on to a long pass lobbed into the box but he can only flick a weak header goalwards.
Bit of a midfield battle at the moment. Alan, the right winger and goalscorer, is 33-years-old now but still sports blonde-splattered dreadlocks.
Viana is an enjoyable player to watch and exerting an influence in midfield early on. United's lack of wingers is giving the Braga full-backs space to play in, and Viana can pick them out - he thumps one pinpoint delivery 50 yards across the field to right-back Salino.
Chicharito latches on to a pass this time, once more down the left-hand side, but again the final ball isn't quite right and doesn't reach Rooney.
Van Persie pushes off a defender before aiming a left-footed pass in the direction of Kagawa's run into the box at the back post, but the Japanese is offside.
Fletcher chips an accurate pass down the left channel for Rooney but he's ushered out of play. United well in control in terms of possession now, but as Ferguson predicted they need to be careful of Braga's counter-attacking threat.
Good play by Cleverley, who intercepted Elderson's pass and fired a ball across to Chicharito. He managed to work it back to Rooney but the England star's attempted through ball was cut out. Braga quickly moved towards the United goal and Micael was allowed too much space to run at Carrick, but shot wide.
Rooney drops deep and tries a chipped pass behind the defence but Van Persie is dealt with by Vinicius.
It's all very congested when United get the ball but Braga look more than assured in possession, stretching the play to the full width of the pitch.
Cleverley finds some space on the right flank and his cross is cleared behind for a corner. Van Persie's first delivery is headed behind again, but his second reaches Rooney. He nods it back across goal but Evans can't get any power on the second attempt and Beto is fouled as he claims the ball.
Assist Hugo Viana
GOAL! Yet again Manchester United have conceded an early goal! This one comes after just a minute and a half. Viana whips in a cross from the left and Alan, arriving from the right wing, gets in front of Buttner to head past De Gea. Too easy.
Braga start confidently despite immediately coming under pressure on the ball. Eder steps in front of Carrick to latch on to a pass fired upfield and wins a corner, but Alan's delivery is easily cleared by Van Persie.
Jose Peseiro and Sir Alex Ferguson are in their seats and we're off. Braga get us underway.
The teams are out at Old Trafford. United are in their red home shirts and white shorts, while Braga have donned a green and black number. Very similar to the away strip worn by Athletic Bilbao in Manchester last season, in fact...
Sir Alex Ferguson has been talking to ITV regarding United's opponents this evening: "I think they're better away from home. Some of their form leading up to the Europa League final [in 2011] was excellent. We have to be aware of the counter-attack. There's some very good footballers in their team. It'll be a really open game I think."
We're only 10 minutes away from kick-off now. Manchester United, in case you'd forgotten, have collected six points from six so far, but their wins over CFR Cluj and Galatasaray have been narrow. The European hangover triggered by the defeat in the 2011 final to Barcelona has been a long one and it hasn't quite ended yet.
T-shirt-gate rumbles on. Roy Keane, speaking to ITV before the match, believes that Sir Alex Ferguson will hold the supposed embarrassment against Rio Ferdinand and that it will cost him in terms of his long-term future at the club. Something of an overreaction, perhaps...
As for Braga, you may recognise the name Hugo Viana in midfield. The 29-year-old spent three years in the Premier League with Newcastle United having been tipped for stardom after emerging at Sporting Lisbon, but things never really panned out in England. He's an important player for Braga and will dictate things from the middle of the park.
Scott Wootton had been tipped to take over at centre-back with Rio Ferdinand rested and among the substitutes, but Michael Carrick drops back instead. That leaves a space vacant at the base of midfield, which Darren Fletcher fills.
Sir Alex Ferguson appears to have opted to continue with his new diamond formation despite the return of Ashley Young, who is on the bench. Nani, too, could provide a wide option later on in the game.
Braga (4-2-3-1): Beto; Salino, Nuno Coelho, Vinicius, Elderson; Custodio, Viana; Alan, Micael, Amorim; Eder. Subs: Quim, Mossoro, Helder Barbosa, Michel, Baiano, Ze Luis, Capela.
Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Carrick, Buttner; Fletcher; Kagawa, Cleverley; Rooney; Chicharito, Van Persie. Subs: Johnstone, Ferdinand, Anderson, Giggs, Nani, Young, Welbeck.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's play-by-play coverage of Manchester United's Champions League group match against Sporting Braga. We have the starting line-ups coming up...
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