Manchester edges Leverkusen 2-1

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooy scored both goals on Tuesday as Manchester United held on for a 2-1 Champions League victory against German club Bayer Leverku

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:28 IST
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Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooy scored both goals on Tuesday as Manchester United held on for a 2-1 Champions League victory against German club Bayer Leverkusen, last year's losing finalist in the competition. Van Nistelrooy scored in the 31st minute and side-footed in his second in the 44th minute, while Leverkusen forward Dimitar Berbatow got one back seven minutes after the break as Manchester moved to 2-0 in Group F with a 7-3 goal difference. Struggling Leverkusen is without a point and is 3-8 in goals, despite dominating the second half in a contest which seemed to show how far both teams have fallen since the German club upset Manchester in last year's semifinals. Leverkusen came close to earning a draw when Berbatow's 86th minute header struck the left post. Juan Veron crossed from the left on the first goal with Nistelrooy waiting at the opposite post. The Dutchman then took it perfectly on his chest and blasted a shot through the legs of Leverkusen coach Frank Juric. Van Nistelrooy's second came when some combination passing ripped a hole in Leverkusen's shaky defense and ended with the unmarked Nicky Butt shovelling the ball to the equally alone Dutchman, crossing from the left, who quickly sidefooted a high shot under the crossbar. England right back Gary Neville, coming back from injury, was inserted in the second half for his record 69th Champions League performance. But Neville's rust showed as the German club got one back as it charged out after the half, with Turkish midfielder Yildiray Basturk's short pass finding Berbatow. The Bulgarian forward blew past Neville, who stood frozen, before sending a powerful shot inside the right post. After that, the English club couldn't seem to keep Leverkusen's players from threatening, especially in a heated next 15 minutes where a rattled-looking Manchester defense helped out with a series of bad passes. Leverkusen, however, couldn't take advantage. It didn't generate a dangerous attempt beyond Berbatow's two scenes despite the occasional help from the English defenders. The German club's own defense looked shaky and vulnerable for a first half in which it appeared the English club would coast to a win, if not turn the match into a rout. Manchester didn't have a single threatening scene after van Nistelrooy left the match with an injury at the break. David Beckham could have gotten his club off to a fast start but his 18th minute shot just skimmed over the crossbar. Both clubs were missing several key players and both are fighting disappointing starts to their domestic league. Leverkusen, which can't seem to replace injured defensive stars Jens Nowotny and Diego Placente, has given up 11 goals in its last three matches. Its fluid attack from last season hasn't recovered from the loss of Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto, who signed with Bayern Munich for this year. (AP)

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