It all looked over after 20 minutes, but Manchester United once again rescued themselves from the promise of a shocking home defeat and scored three goals to keep them top of their Champions League group.
The salvage operation was unveiled by Javier Hernandez (pictured), who made a mockery of his frequent non-selection this season by scoring two goals. It gives manager Sir Alex Ferguson a real headache of selection, as he potentially has four European-class strikers at any one time and can’t keep them all happy.
A more pressing concern is the holiness of the back four. Despite being a makeshift one, the defence continue to leak goals in several matches (I think I heard they’ve gone behind in 8 games this season so far) and it’s only down to their prolific goalscoring tendencies that Man U aren’t languishing towards the bottom end of the table. Something needs to be done about goals that are being scored from all manners of situations and just aren’t being stopped.
For now though, the red side of Manchester will be enjoying a much easier first round than last season. The same can’t be said for Chelsea, current holders of the trophy, who suffered a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk, last night. Celtic also came nail-bitingly close to an historic draw away to Barcelona, until a 94th winner from Jordi Alba sent the Scots home dejected and their manager fuming.
Nick Matthew’s demolition of fellow Englishman Peter Barker in the semis of the NetSuite Squash Open suggested that he would do the same to Gaultier of France in the final. It wasn’t to be, as Matthew’s continental opponent put on a masterclass to win the final in three straight games.
Matthew himself admitted that he had never played so well only to lose (paraphrased slightly) and that sounded about right. The Brit was only in the lead at one point for a period of two points, although he did well to keep up with Gaultier on a number of occasions. Shots landed well for him, as did refereeing decisions. In the end, it was so close for Nick, but he remains the UK’s best squash player by some distance.
Highs and Lows
In other news, I learned that there was more than one group in bowls’ Champion of Champions, but I don’t know what they mean so I’m including them all. That means entrants from Scotland, Wales, Jersey and the Isle of Man also join England’s Bolt and Guernsey’s Le Ber as they compete for the ultimate prize. The best performance of the day came from Wales’ Jason Greenslade, who lost just one end (curling term, let’s hope they’re compatible) all day. Highest scorer was England’s Ellen Falkner, who crushed Dutch player Dolieslager 11-3 18-1!
Elsewhere, Scotland’s netball contingent finished a happy tour of Samoa with a 50-34 victory to win the series, but the British badminton representatives got off to a bad start, with neither doubles team progressing to the main draw.
Squash: NetSuite Open
Nick Matthew 0-3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 7-11 11-13 9-11
Football: UEFA Champions League
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 2-1 Chelsea (2nd)
Barcelona (ESP) 2-1 Celtic (2nd)
Manchester United (1st) 3-2 Braga (POR)
Bowls: Singles Champion of Champions
Matt Le Ber 0-2 Hizlee Abd Rais (MAS) 4-7 5-14
Matt Le Ber 2-0 Will Esterhuizen (NAM) 13-6 9-7
David Bolt 2-0 Hizlee Abd Rais (MAS) 14-3 10-7
Matt Le Ber 1-0 Frank de Vries (NED) 7-7 11-6
David Bolt 2-1 Will Esterhuizen (NAM) 6-11 8-4 4-3
Jason Greenslade 2-0 Kenny Ng (CHN) 13-3 11-6
Jason Greenslade 2-0 Peter Gordon (BRA) 9-7 12-3
Mark Kelsey 2-1 Abdul Kalim (FIJ) 6-9 12-6 5-1
Jason Greenslade 2-1 Stanley Lai (HKG) 11-7 5-8 5-1
Mark Kelsey 2-1 John Woodcock (CYP) 13-5 3-9 4-1
Ellen Falkner 0-2 Jane Rigby (ZIM) 8-9 7-11
Caroline Taylor 2-1 Anna Clarke (CYP) 9-6 5-7 2-1
Susan Dingle 2-0 Lorraine Freeman (POR) 8-5 7-6
Ellen Falkner 2-0 Emma Firyana Saroji (MAS) 15-5 12-6
Susan Dingle 2-1 Esme Steyn (RSA) 6-9 7-4 4-0
Ellen Falkner 2-0 Elly Dolieslager (NED) 11-3 18-1
Caroline Taylor 2-0 Susan Dingle 8-5 8-7
Bernice McGreal 1-2 Mary Lim (SIN) 5-7 10-4 1-2
Yvonne Veitch 2-0 Carmen Spiteri (MLT) 8-7 8-7
Bernice McGreal 2-0 Nikki Lee (MAC) 11-2 8-7
Yvonne Veitch 0-2 Janica Agar (AUS) 11-6 5-13
Bernice McGreal 2-1 Matangaro Tupuna (COK) 4-12 8-2 4-0
Yvonne Veitch 1-1 Lesley Vermeulen (NAM) 8-5 10-2 (Veitch wins)
Netball: Samoa Series
Scotland Thistles 50-34 Samoa
Scotland win the series 2-1.
Badminton: Yonex French Badminton Open
Qualification Round 1
Marcus Ellis/Paul Van Rietvelde 0-2 Zhendong Guo/Chen Xu (CHN) 12-21 18-21
Chris Langridge/Peter Mills 2-0 Simon Maunoury/Julien Tchoryk (FRA) 21-5 21-16
Qualification Round 2
Chris Langridge/Peter Mills 1-2 Songphon Anugritatyawon/Pakkawat Vilailak (THA) 14-21 21-16 7-21