Mata Shines Against Wolfsburg

Mata scores for United vs. Wolfsburg

Europe hasn’t been kind to English clubs this year. Through their opening six matches in the Champions League, Premier League clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City) had won just won match while losing the remaining five. Tuesday’s fixtures saw Arsenal fall at home to Olympiakos and Chelsea slump to a 2-1 defeat away at Porto. As the two Manchester clubs prepared themselves for battle Wednesday night, it was clear that anything less than victory would be disastrous for the English reputation. Manchester United, who lost 2-1 to PSV on matchday one, played host to VfL Wolfsburg at Old Trafford and the match provided all of the excitement accustomed to these Champions League nights.

Less than four minutes into the match, it looked as if the English downslide would continue. Some aggressive work from Daniel Caligiuri on the wing along with a well worked through ball from Max Kruse, put the midfielder through on goal, and he made no mistake burying his effort past David De Gea. The early strike shocked the Old Trafford faithful; especially considering the fine form they were going into the match (three games, three wins).

The disastrous start seemed to spark a fire under the Manchester United player’s as they began to take control of the match and push for more and more opportunities. Juan Mata’s shot looked destined for the back of the net in the 12th minute, only for Dante to clear it away with a flying headed effort. The following attack, United’s 19-year-old wonder kid Anthony Martial danced his way past two Wolfsburg defenders but his effort curled just wide of the net.

United should have grabbed the equalizer in the 25th minute, but poor finishing kept them behind. Again, it was Martial with some great dribbling on the wing before finding an unmarked Wayne Rooney just outside the six-yard box. The England skipper had all of the net to aim at, but fired his effort miles over the empty frame. Just two minutes later, Memphis Depay found himself on the end of magnificent through ball from Mata, but the Dutchman’s header lacked the power to beat Diego Benaglio in net.

The long-awaited breakthrough for the Red Devils came in the 34th minute. Juan Mata, again, was involved in the creation as his cross into the penalty area was deflected by Caligiuri’s hand earning the hosts a vital penalty kick. It was the Spanish midfielder who stepped up to take the kick, in-lieu of Rooney, and Mata made no mistake in sending the keeper the wrong way to level things just before half. Mata’s penalty effort was enough to send the clubs into the break even at one goal apiece.

Without a doubt, the moment of the match came just after the start of the second half. A deflected cross from Ashley Young fell to Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German veteran tried to strike a thunderous volley, but a poor connection directed the ball to Juan Mata who delivered one of the most creative back heel flicks I have ever seen into the box. Mata’s magnificent pass seemed to catch everyone other than Chris Smalling off-guard as the English defender rushed into slide the ball into the back of the net. 2-1 United.

The remaining 30+ minutes of the match saw the German visitors press United to the brink. The introduction of Andre Schurrle nearly paid dividends but the former Chelsea winger’s near post effort slid just wide. In the 75th minute, Wayne Rooney made a close-range save on Dante’s effort to keep his side ahead, and that was all United needed to secure an invaluable three points.

Other than a shaky ending to the match, I think it’s fair to say that United deserved the result with all of the chances they created in attack. In the other match, Manchester City also claimed a 2-1 victory over German opposition as they sank Borussia Monchengladbach away from home. Next up for United in Europe is a trip CSKA Moscow, while Wolfsburg play host to PSV Eindhoven.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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