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Manchester United 2-1 CSKA Moscow: Reds come from behind to secure Champions League top spot

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The Champions League group stage reached a climax on Tuesday.

Manchester United v CSKA Moskva - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Manchester United came from behind to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday, advancing into the Champions League knockout stages as group winners in the process. The Russian side took the lead late in the first half, though goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford made for a turnaround in the second.

CSKA saw plenty of possession in the game's first few minutes, but it was United that proved more efficient on the ball. It took just five minutes for José Mourinho's men to break the visitors’ defensive ranks, though Rashford nudged his shot against the post after springing the offside trap to receive an incisive Lukaku pass.

Despite United’s early threat, chances were few and far between, and the next didn’t arrive until midway through the opening period. Antonio Valencia’s superb cross from the right was met by a sweet Luke Shaw volley, though Igor Akinfeev made an excellent double-save to first deny Shaw, and then Lukaku on the rebound.

CSKA looked rather toothless in attack, but a stroke of good fortune just before the break enabled them to take a surprise lead. Mário Fernandes’ low cross from the right was fired goalwards by the onrushing Vitinho, whose shot bounced off teammate Alan Dzagoev on its way past Sergio Romero. United’s defenders appealed for offside, though Daley Blind — at the time off the field, beyond the byline — was adjudged to have played Dzagoev on, and the goal was allowed to stand.

United kicked off the second half with renewed vigour, and Chris Smalling should've done better on a hooked Juan Mata cross within minutes of the restart — as it was, he could only head wide.

A bombardment of the CSKA box ensued, and eventually the Russian resistance was broken. Paul Pogba's excellent floated pass was prodded home on the volley by Lukaku, who had done excellently to hold off the advances of centre-back Viktor Vasin.

It proved to be the first of two goals in as many minutes: the quick turnaround was completed by Rashford, who took full advantage of some ingenuity from Mata to slot beyond Akinfeev in a one-on-one.

With the double-whammy having all but ended CSKA’s hopes of making the knockout stages, any residual urgency seeped out of the game, and United held on for a confidence-boosting win ahead of the weekend’s Manchester derby.