United beat Braga 3-2 after stunning comeback
Manchester United produced a stirring comeback from conceding two early goals to beat Braga 3-2 on Tuesday, moving the English team to the brink of qualification for the Champions League knockout stage.
Mexico striker Javier Hernandez started and completed United’s rescue act, with his winner coming in the 75th minute following wave after wave of attacks from the home side.
Braga forward Alan scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to silence Old Trafford and maintain United’s poor defensive record this season.
Hernandez cut the deficit in the 25th and Jonny Evans equalised in the 62nd before United’s third straight Group H win was secured when Hernandez headed home from Tom Cleverley’s cross.
One more victory will seal United’s passage out of the group stage. Its first chance will come in Portugal in two weeks’ time in the return match between the teams.
United manager Alex Ferguson has been at a loss to explain why his team’s defence has been so leaky this season. But by resting defenders Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match at Chelsea, he was asking for trouble against a Braga side that arrived unbeaten in its past seven away matches in Europe.
With captain Nemanja Vidic still injured, United fielded a second-choice defensive lineup — featuring midfielder Michael Carrick at centre back — and it was breached within two minutes.
Alan reacted quicker than Alexander Buttner, Evra’s replacement, to a left-wing cross from Hugo Viana and headed past goalkeeper David De Gea — the eighth time United has conceded the first goal in 12 competitive matches this season.
The Spanish goalkeeper was beaten in the 20th minute by the same Brazilian striker, who side-footed home after Eder had turned Carrick inside out near the sideline, darted into the box and centred the ball.
“It’s been the story of our season at home, starting badly and losing goals,” Ferguson said. “We have had to rescue games and it is the front players doing that.”
Hernandez quickly halved the deficit by heading home a deft cross from Shinji Kagawa, with United thankful for the decision by the referee to wave play on after Robin van Persie had been hacked down earlier in the move.
Van Persie shot wide later in the first half and Wayne Rooney went close at the start of the second period. Evans soon equalized with a scrappy goal, turning home a close-range finish after Carrick had flicked on the ball to the near post after a corner.
Hernandez completed the remarkable comeback when he latched onto a deep cross by Cleverley and planted a firm header past goalkeeper Beto. It capped superb individual performance by the Mexican in a rare start this campaign after falling behind Danny Van Persie and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order.
“He trains magnificently and he has great enthusiasm. I must say he has got me thinking,” Ferguson said. “I have got him, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck, and I don’t know what to do with them.”
The last time United came from two goals down to win a Champions League game was in 1999 – the year it won the competition – against Juventus.