LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winning goal capped a classic Manchester United comeback win in the Champions League on Wednesday.
In a less chaotic manner, Bayern Munich and Juventus also recorded typical trademark wins to top their groups with three straight victories and no goals conceded.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime at home against Atalanta, with Paul Pogba left on the bench, United’s wild season under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared ready to derail with last place in the group beckoning.
Ronaldo put the club back on top in the 81st minute after goals from Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire to deliver a second straight come-from-behind win at Old Trafford in the competition.
Bayern routed Benfica 4-0 with late goals including one from Robert Lewandowski after standout saves by Manuel Neuer in the Lisbon stadium where they won the 2020 title 14 months ago.
It was an efficient 1-0 win for Juventus at Zenit St Petersburg thanks to an 86th-minute goal by Dejan Kulusevski.
Defending champions Chelsea also cruised to a 4-0 win, against Malmo, but lost strikers Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner to injuries.
Salzburg were the other group leaders in action, beating VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 with goals from the kind of young forwards the Austrian champion excels in nurturing then trading on.
Teenage Germany forward Karim Adeyemi scored early before 21-year-old Switzerland winger Noah Okafor scored twice in the second half.
Barcelona finally got a win, 1-0 against Dynamo Kiev, to end some unwanted historic streaks for the club and stay in contact in the group led by Bayern.
Villarreal, who were beaten by Ronaldos stoppage-time winning goal three weeks ago, won 4-1 against Young Boys to lift the Europa League champions from last to second in the group.
A 0-0 draw between Lille and Sevilla dragged down the average goals to three per game with 24 in total one day after a 35-goal rush in the eight games on Tuesday.
Solskjaer has many critics outside Manchester United who doubt the club is getting closer to major titles as he approaches three years in charge.
They included the fans who jeered the team off at halftime having seen Mario Pasalic score for Atalanta in the 15th minute and Turkish centre-back Merih Demiral in the 29th.
However Rashford made up for missing a glorious chance just before the interval by pulling a goal back eight minutes into the second half and sparking another remarkable fightback.
With Pogba now on the field, captain Maguire swept in the equaliser in the 75th minute and Ronaldo rose to head in a Luke Shaw cross to clinch a 3-2 victory for his record-extending 138th Champions League goal.
“We have a habit of doing this at this club,” said Solskjaer, who praised the fans “for helping lift and sing the players to victory, which is what you do at Manchester United on a Champions League night”.
United are now top of Group ‘F’, two points clear of Atalanta and Villarreal, who won away in Bern.
Yeremi Pino gave Villarreal the early lead on his 19th birthday, before Gerard Moreno headed in a free-kick to make it 2-0.
Meschack Elia, the Congolese striker, pulled one back for the Swiss champions in the 77th minute but late goals by Alberto Moreno and Samu Chukwueze sealed victory.
Bayern returned to the Estadio da Luz without the new coach who replaced 2020 title-winner Hansi Flick.
Julian Nagelsmann was ill and stayed at the hotel while his team had two goals disallowed before striking four times from the 70th minute when Leroy Sane’s free-kick put them ahead.
An Everton own goal was followed by a Lewandowski tap-in and another Sane goal as Benfica were brought back down to earth after thumping Barcelona 3-0 last month.
“It’s clear to see how hungry we are, that’s one of our biggest strengths,” Sane told broadcaster DAZN.
Bayern have now scored 12 goals without reply in Europe this season. They now lead Benfica by five points, with Barcelona a further point back.
The 34-year-old Gerard Pique scored his 16th Champions League goal, tying the record for a defender to ensure, Barca beat Dynamo in front of a half-empty Camp Nou.
After losing to Juve last time out, Chelsea got their defence of the trophy back on track as Jorginho scored two penalties in the rain at Stamford Bridge.
However, their evening was marred by an injury to Lukaku, who hobbled off after being hurt winning the first penalty of the night midway through the first half.
Andreas Christensen had given Chelsea the lead before that. Kai Havertz scored Chelsea’s other goal, but Thomas Tuchel’s side also saw Werner come off before the break.
“We have a twist of the ankle for Romelu, and muscle injury and hamstring for Timo, so they will be some days out I guess,” Tuchel said. “We have a lot of games, so now we have to find solutions, no excuses.”
Chelsea are second in Group ‘H’ but Juventus are top after substitute Kulusevski’s late header secured victory in Russia.
Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg are four points clear at the top of Group ‘G’ after beating Wolfsburg. Sevilla are second despite a third straight draw away at Lille who have now gone 20 games without a win in the Champions League.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021