Ronaldo delivers again in Man Utd comeback to beat Atalanta
Summer signing and Champions League top goalscorer of all-time Cristiano Ronaldo once again scored a late winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit against Atalanta to win 3-2 and move top of Champions League Group F at the halfway point.
Former Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic broke the deadlock after just 15 minutes at Old Trafford, with Merih Demiral heading home to double the blow before the half-hour mark on Wednesday.
Coming from injury to make his first start of the season, Marcus Rashford pulled one back after the break as he scored the 300th goal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure before Harry Maguire leveled with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
Ronaldo, who scored a stoppage-time winner against Villarreal in match week two, then climbed the highest to cap a memorable comeback and move the Red Devils to the summit.
United conceded for a 12th consecutive home game across all competitions which is now their longest such run since February 1964 (13) – thanks to smart work from Chelsea loanee Davide Zappacosta.
The right wing-back overlapped and drilled low from the right for another Chelsea product Pasalic, who prodded into the bottom-left corner from point-blank range, and matters worsened for United 14 minutes later.
Demiral towered above Maguire to flick past David de Gea following Teun Koopmeiners’ corner before Rashford’s volley clipped the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.
However, there was no stopping Rashford after the interval as he raced onto Bruno Fernandes’ pass before sliding into the bottom-right corner.
Scott McTominay’s close-range deflection then cannoned into the right-hand post before De Gea denied both Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskiy’s long-range effort on the follow-up.
De Gea’s double stop proved vital when Maguire swept into the bottom-right corner after the visitors failed to clear Jadon Sancho’s delivery from the right.
Fernandes forced another save from Musso, however, the Atalanta goalkeeper remained motionless a minute later as Ronaldo headed into the bottom-left corner following Luke Shaw’s cross to seal a vital three points for Solskjaer.
United had won six of their last seven home games in the Champions League against Italian opposition but required late heroics to overturn an early two-goal deficit.
After Saturday’s defeat against Leicester City, and with Liverpool and Tottenham up next, Solskjaer was desperate for a result, and his substitutes of Sancho, Paul Pogba, and Edinson Cavani all made a huge difference for Solskjaer.
The Red Devils end Atalanta’s unbeaten start in the group and move two points clear at the top with their destiny now in their own hands with three games to play.
Solskjaer caused a little controversy, before later clarifying his comments when asking Rashford to “prioritize” football prior to the Leicester loss.
The 23-year-old was impressive against Atalanta, producing six shots – with only Ronaldo attempting more – and managed the all-important first goal to make the Old Trafford faithful believe after a dire first-half showing.
Maguire was another player to come in for criticism from United supporters after the defeat against Leicester and the center-back will have been feeling the pressure after Demiral climbed above him for Atalanta’s second.
However, the England international responded well – netting the equalizer and producing a team-high three clearances along with Luke Shaw as United defended their late lead.
Both teams will be back to their respective leagues over the weekend. Manchester United faces Liverpool at Old Trafford and Tottenham before their next meeting on November 2 with Atalanta, who next host Udinese in Serie A on Sunday.