Manchester United booked their place in the Milk Cup semi final with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against CSKA Moscow at the Brandywell in Derry on Wednesday night and will now face Scottish team Partick Thistle while CSKA face Vendee in the other semi final.
United began the game knowing that they would face a stiffer test than in their 2 previous group games as CSKA had also won their first two games and from the first minute the Russian team were strong and quick into the tackle as they gave United no time at all to settle on the ball and looked to get the ball in behind United with balls over the top. Following a couple of half chances for United from fast breaks down the left hand side through Mitchell and Borg one of CSKA’s balls forward paid dividends as their right-winger controlled well and held off the challenge of Borg to slip the ball under Henderson with his left foot.
Following the goal United made a couple of tweaks to the formation with Dearnley and Mitchell switching wings and Gribbin moving slightly further forward. The changes had the desired effect as Gribbin began to get more into the game once again showing his eye for a through pass as he played Rashford in with a ball clipped over the top of the defence but the keeper got out quickly to save well at Rashford’s feet. It was only a temporary let off for CSKA as moments later Gribbin’s through ball found Dearnley coming in from the left and following a brilliant save by the keeper with his foot the ball fell to Gribbin who steered it home to draw United level.
Most of United’s play at this stage was going through Gribbin and after another through ball from him found Dearnley the keeper again did well to save and Mitchell put the rebound wide. United were not to be denied for long however as moments later Scott’s ball in behind found Rashford who cut in from the left and faked a shot to engineer some space and curled a brilliant finish into the far top corner which gave the keeper no chance and meant United went into the break with a 2-1 lead at half time.
The second half was played at a far slower pace than the first with the main talking point being an injury to Rashford’s right ankle and he was replaced by Warren which meant a reshuffle of the entire defence and Mitchell playing up front. Both teams looked to have run out of steam a bit in the second half as United failed to create any chances of note while CSKA stung the hands of Henderson with a shot from 20 yards which he saved down low to his left.
With both teams finding it hard to create anything it looked like the only way there would be a goal was from a set piece and so it proved after Borthwick Jackson pulled down a player on the right hand side of the box. The CSKA player curled a low ball into the area which went through a number of players and may have taken a touch off someone before ending up in United’s net. Following the goal it looked as if both sides were happy enough to take the draw which saw them both progress to tomorrow’s semi final.
Manchester United: Henderson; Williams, Borthwick-Jackson, Tuanzebe; Mitchell, Scott, Thompson, Gribbin, Dearnley, Borg; Rashford (Warren) Substitutes Not Used: Dorrington, Byrne, Reid, Johnston, Obi