Star striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United scored three unanswered second-half goals to beat Atlanta in a Champions League match Wednesday in Manchester, England. Photo by Peter Powell/EPA-EFE
Oct. 21 (UPI) — Cristiano Ronaldo fired a header into the far-post netting in the 81st minute to lead Manchester United to a dramatic 3-2 win over Atalanta in the group stage of the 2021-2022 UEFA Champions League soccer tournament.
“He [Ronaldo] is great in front of goal,” Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Soskjaer told MUTV after the comeback victory Wednesday in Manchester, England.
“If anyone wants to criticize him for work-rate or attitude, just watch this game. Watch how he runs around. He’s still got a leap and timing like no-one else.”
Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire also scored in the win at Old Trafford. The Red Devils trailed 2-0 at halftime of the Group F match.
Atalanta drew first blood in the 15th minute. Right wing Davide Zappacosta collected a through ball to the right of the Red Devils box to start the sequence.
He then fired a pass to his left. Midfielder Mario Pasalic ran into the area, collected the feed and hit a one-touch shot past Red Devils keeper David de Gea.
The Italian Serie A squad doubled its lead about 13 minutes later. Midfielder Teun Koopmeiners set up that score with a corner kick from the right flag.
He sent the left-to-right inswinger toward the face of the Red Devils goal. Atalanta center back Merih Demiral finished the play with a header into the net from point-blank range.
The Red Devils started their rally of three-unanswered scores when Rashford found the net in the 53rd minute.
Midfielder Bruno Fernandes intercepted a pass deep in Atalanta territory to spark that score. He used his first touch to send a pass toward the left corner flag, just ahead of Rashford.
The Red Devils forward dribbled into the box by himself and slipped a shot into the far-post netting past Atalanta keeper Juan Musso.
Maguire made the equalizer about 22 minutes later. Forward Edinson Cavani used his head to flick a blind pass into the left side of the box for the fullback. Maguire used his first touch to smack a shot into the near-post netting.
The game-winning score came near the end of regular time. The Red Devils won a corner, but the ball was batted around the Atalanta box. The Red Devils settled the possession and left back Luke Shaw collected a pass about 30 yards from the goal.
Shaw bent a long cross toward the far post, where Ronaldo jumped and headed a shot just to the right of the left post.
The Red Devils return to England’s Premier League for a match against Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday in Manchester. They battle Atalanta in a Champions League rematch at 4 p.m. EDT Nov. 2 in Bergamo, Italy.
Atlanta hosts Udinese in Serie A at 6:30 a.m. EDT Sunday in Bergamo.