Manchester – A late Cristiano Ronaldo winner capped another Manchester United comeback in the Champions League on Wednesday, this time against Atalanta, as holders Chelsea and Bayern Munich cruised to big victories and Barcelona gave their campaign a shot in the arm.
The knives were out for United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his side found themselves 2-0 down at half-time at Old Trafford, Mario Pasalic and Turkish centre-back Merih Demiral scoring for Atalanta.
However Marcus 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.
In their last Champions League outing three weeks ago, United fell behind at home to Villarreal but came back to win 2-1 with Ronaldo scoring the decisive goal in injury time.
This time captain Harry 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 nine minutes from time for his record-extending 137th Champions League goal.
“We have a habit of doing this at this club,” said Solskjaer of another come-from-behind success.
United are now top of Group F, two points clear of Atalanta and Villarreal, who won 4-1 away to Young Boys 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 for last season’s Europa League winners.
After losing to Juventus last time out, Chelsea got their defence of the trophy back on track as Jorginho scored two penalties in a 4-0 drubbing of Malmo in the rain at Stamford Bridge.
However, their evening was marred by an injury to Romelu 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 Timo 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 with three wins out of three after substitute Dejan Kulusevski’s late header secured a 1-0 victory against Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia.
Bayern scored four times in the final 20 minutes to defeat Benfica 4-0 in Lisbon and maintain a 100 per cent record in Group E.
The German champions saw Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller have goals disallowed before Leroy Sane’s free-kick put them ahead at the Estadio da Luz, the scene of their victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the 2020 final.
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.
Barcelona gave their own hopes of reaching the last 16 a boost as Gerard Pique’s first-half strike proved enough for a 1-0 victory at home to Dynamo Kiev in front of a half-empty Camp Nou, and their first points in the group.
Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg are four points clear at the top of Group G after beating Wolfsburg 3-1.
Karim Adeyemi’s early opener for Salzburg was soon cancelled out by Lukas Nmecha, but a second-half brace by the Swiss forward Noah Okafor gave the home side the points.
Sevilla are second despite a third straight draw, 0-0 away at Lille who have now gone 20 games without a win in the Champions League. — AFP