Ronaldo sinks old club | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 29, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 29, 2007

UEFA Champions League

Ronaldo sinks old club


Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo (R) hugs teammate Anderson after scoring a late winner against Sporting Lisbon in their Champions League match at Old Trafford on Tuesday.Photo: AFP

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo hit a stoppage-time stunner that clinched a 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday and ensured his side will finish top of Champions League Group F.
United trailed after Tomasz Kuszczak misjudged Abel's long range strike but Carlos Tevez came off the bench to equalise and Ronaldo stole the points at Old Trafford with a superb free-kick.
Sir Alex Ferguson's under-strength team rarely hit peak form against a determined Sporting team, but they can now afford to take it easy in their final match at Roma on December 12.
The United boss had made it clear he wanted to win the group so they would face one of the runners-up in the first knockout round and avoid the likes of AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
So it was mission accomplished for Ferguson, who is certain to leave several of his key players at home when United travel to the Italian capital to keep them fresh for the crunch domestic clash at Liverpool four days later.
Ronaldo's winner eliminated his former club from the race to qualify alongside United. He had scored the decisive goal in Lisbon earlier this season as well and Sporting, who go into the UEFA Cup, will be sick of the sight of the Portugal winger.
Ferguson admitted Ronaldo's work on the training ground had paid off.
"It was a marvellous strike. He's done it before and he works very hard at it," Ferguson said.
"He always wants to do well against his old club. He owes a lot to Sporting because he was brought up by them and I think he respects that.
"Now he's maturing he's doing the sort of things that win matches."
Porto boss Paulo Bento insisted the turning point was Liedson's disallowed goal soon after Abel's opener. "Ronaldo had a great influence because he is one of their greatest player," he said.
"But we scored two goals and unfortunately only one was valid. The second was not accepted by the referee."
Ferguson welcomed back Ronaldo and Nemanja Vidic after injury but, with United's place in the last 16 already secure, he opted to rest Tevez, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves and Edwin van der Sar.
But although United started brightly, with Ronaldo scything through the defence before his pass to Louis Saha was smothered, that promise quickly faded.
While United had their wounded pride to salve after the battering at Bolton there was more at stake for Bento's team, who knew they had to win.
Joao Moutinho set the tone when the midfielder dragged a long range shot narrowly off-target.
There was a casualness about United's play that gave Sporting encouragement and they took the lead in the 21st minute.
Miguel Veloso impressed Ferguson so much during United's win against Sporting earlier this season that he is considering a 10 million pounds bid for the midfielder.
Veloso was a composed presence in front of his defence and he started the move that broke the deadlock.
His pass picked out Abel and the right-back decided to try his luck with a swerving effort from way out on the wing that deceived Kuszczak and beat him at the near post.
It was an awful piece of goalkeeping by the Pole but Abel deserved credit for his opportunist strike.
Sporting were harshly denied a second goal when Liedson alertly poked home from close-range, only to see an offside flag rule out his effort even though replays showed he was level with Darren Fletcher.
Anderson Polga tested Kuszczak with a long-range shot and this time the United keeper made sure he got across to save.
United's lethargic display threatened to derail their desire to win the group so it was no surprise to see the United manager send on Giggs and Tevez at half-time.
Ferguson could have few complaints about his side after the break.
United played with far more energy and they deservedly equalised in the 61st minute.
Saha touched Patrice Evra's cross back to Ronaldo and his shot was turned in by Tevez despite Marian Had's attempted block.
It took a good stop from Rui Patrico to keep out Ronaldo's low drive as United pressed for a winner.
Sporting seemed to have done enough to hold on but with just seconds left United won a free-kick 30 yards out.
Inevitably it was Ronaldo who stepped up and lashed a superb strike past Patrico to sink his old mates and leave United top of the table.

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