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Manchester United bow out of Champions League after losing to Wolfsburg

Photo Courtesy: Goal.com
Photo Courtesy: Goal.com

Manchester United have failed to qualify to the last sixteen of the Champions League after suffering a narrow 3-2 defeat in a thrilling contest against Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena.

Anthony Martial’s early strike was immediately cancelled out by Naldo, before Vieirinha put Wolfsburg ahead at the half hour mark. United were able to get back on level terms following an own-goal from Josuha Guilavogui in the 82nd minute, but Naldo sealed the Red Devils’ Champions League fate by grabbing the winner in the 84th minute.

The game started with Wolfsburg getting a golden chance to go ahead in the 3rd minute through Andre Schurrle, but the forward was unable to hit the target. Max Kruse found Schurrle with a superb headed pass inside the box and the former Chelsea man was through on goal. Although he had plenty of time to control the ball before taking the shot, the German international decided to fire from the half-volley, and this resulted in him sending his effort over the crossbar.

Despite the hosts being lively in the opening stages of the game, it was Manchester United who took the lead in the 10th minute through Martial. Juan Mata, after finding the smallest of gaps between Naldo and Trasch, sent an excellent pass towards Martial, who made no mistakes as he poked the ball beyond the reach of Diego Benaglio.

However, United’s joy did not last for long as Wolfsburg grabbed the equaliser after only three minutes through Naldo. Ricardo Rodriguez whipped in a brilliant free-kick towards the near post and the Brazilian connected with a volley, which easily beat De Gea before settling in the back of the net.

The visitors got an excellent chance to retake the lead through Fellaini in the 28th minute, but the Belgian’s effort was saved by Benaglio. Daley Blind floated a superb cross into the area and Fellaini connected with a powerful header. However, the former Everton man’s effort was miraculously saved by Benaglio on the line, before Wolfsburg were able to clear.

While United were still recovering from Fellani’s missed chance, Wolfsburg went ahead and took the lead through Vieirinha, after only a minute. Schurrle picked out Draxler with a good pass, and the former Schalke man played an excellent one-two with Kruse to send the striker past United’s defence. Kruse finally had De Gea at his mercy but the former Borussia Mönchengladbach man, instead of taking a shot, squared the ball towards Vieirinha, who simply tapped the ball into an empty net.

Wolfsburg got a brilliant chance to double their lead through Draxler in the 39th minute, but De Gea made an excellent save to keep his side’s hopes alive. The former Schalke man, after being played into the area, showed excellent balance to cut back onto his right. With the goalkeeper at his mercy, Draxler fired an effort but De Gea produced a brilliant save to keep the ball out.

Moments before half time, controversy erupted after United’s equaliser was ruled as offside by the linesman. Lingard’s curled effort appeared to have been guided into the far corner by Mata and United started celebrating the equaliser. However, their celebrations were cut short after Mata was rightly ruled as offside. There were a lot of protest from the United bench but the linesman refused to change his decision.

Towards the hour mark, United got two back-to-back chances to grab the equaliser through Depay and Mata, but neither player could provide a good enough finish to find the back of net. While Depay’s close range finish, following a headed pass from Fellaini, was saved by Benaglio, Mata was unable to make contact with a cross (following a short corner from Depay) at the near post.

Moments later, at the other end, De Gea made an unorthodox save to deny a long-range effort from Schurrle. The Spain goalkeeper came off his lines to collect a long through ball from Dante. However, he did not manage to completely clear his lines, and this resulted in Schurrle trying to chip a long-range effort over the out-of-position Spaniard. However, fortunately for the Red Devils, De Gea was able to palm the ball away while retreating back to his post.

In the 67th minute, the Spaniard was again called into action as he brilliantly tipped over another effort from Schurrle.

Despite Wolfsburg continuously threatening to score, it was United who were able to find the equaliser in the 82nd minute through an own goal from Josuha Guilavogui. Fellaini tried to direct a corner home, but his header was too weak to trouble Benaglio. However, Wolfsburg on-loan midfielder Guilavogui, instead of letting Benaglio collect the ball, tried to clear, and this resulted in him sending a header over the goalkeeper past his own net.

Just when Manchester United chances of making it to the knockout phases of the Champions League were looking a little better, Wolfsburg retook the lead through Naldo in the 84th minute. Nick Powell failed to clear Schafer’s corner and this allowed Naldo to power a header past Dea and secure all the three points for his side.

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