Manchester United looked uninspired for most of their visit to Braga, but they came back late to win 3-1 and book a spot in the knockout stages.
Manchester United looked drab and uninspired for long stretches of their match at Braga on Wednesday. It wasn't particularly surprising considering their sluggish play in their other group stages matches, but just as was the case before, they still managed to take maximum points from their drab play. A late comeback, which saw them score three goals in the final 10 minutes, handed United a 3-1 win in Braga that books their spot in the knockout stages with two matches to play.
The first half didn't do much to thrill, with neither team being able to generate much going forward. United did have a penalty shout turned away, but that aside, the match looked destined for a draw, which both teams probably would have been content with.
Four minutes into the second half, though, everything changed. Jonny Evans impeded Custodio and after a hard collision the referee pointed to the spot. Alan buried the spot kick and Braga had themselves a 1-0 lead.
Just falling behind a goal wasn't enough to ignite United. In fact, it took the lights going out at the stadium and a delay for the Red Devils to find any fire. After a 10-minute delay, the teams came back out and United looked like a whole new team.
Finally, the Red Devils had some creativity and they were breaking quickly. They had an extra step and Braga were struggling to keep up. But for all their efforts, they couldn't score, at least not until Braga gifted them a goal.
Ryan Giggs fed Robin van Persie and Beto, for reasons unexplained, came off his line to try and collect the ball. The problem is that it was more than 20 yards from goal and by the time he realized that, van Persie was on the ball, shooting into an open net to equalize.
Level in the 80th minute, the Red Devils looked like a good bet to find a winner and four minutes later they did. After a scrum in the box that saw multiple Braga players attempt slide tackles and no whistle, the ball was cleared, at which point the referee came back and awarded a penalty, likely under the advisement of his assistant. Wayne Rooney blasted home the penalty and United were in front.
Just for good measure, and with some more Braga defending, United added another tally late on. Braga couldn't clear their lines and after some fighting, Javier Hernandez was able to bundle the ball over the line to seal up the United win.
With the win, Manchester United are on 12 points from four matches, tops in Group H and going to the knockout stages. Braga are still in the mix to go through on three points despite being bottom of the group with Cluj and Galatasaray on four points each.