Manchester United came from a goal down in Russia to earn a vital point thanks to a 1-1 draw against CSKA Moscow after dominating proceedings at Arena Khimki.
It was an eventful night for Reds striker Anthony Martial who conceded a penalty at one end and netted a superb header at the other. Seydou Doumbia had put the Russian side ahead on 15 minutes after blasting home from close-range after Roman Eremenko’s penalty, conceded by United’s goalscorer Martial, had been well-saved by David De Gea. But Martial atoned for his handball not long after the hour-mark with a brilliantly directed header, in off the post, to help United claim an important point in Group B.
Louis van Gaal, perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s Manchester derby, made two changes to the team that eased past Everton at the weekend with Antonio Valencia, United’s matchwinner in Moscow six years earlier, coming in at right-back to replace Matteo Darmian, while Jesse Lingard, who performed admirably in the second half on Merseyside, made his Champions League debut, in place of Juan Mata, who joined Darmian on the bench. There was a familiar face in the opposition line-up with former Red Zoran Tosic on the right wing for CSKA who came into the game unbeaten at home for six months.
With every team in Group B on three points you expected a tight opening to the match, played in near-freezing conditions, and that it was, although United saw plenty of possession. It was therefore something of a surprise to see CSKA take the lead on 15 minutes, despite De Gea’s best efforts. Having initially saved Mario Fernandes’ shot, it turned out the referee had already blown up for a penalty after Fernandes’ flick was hand-balled by Martial. Eremenko stepped up to take the spot-kick and despite De Gea pushing the ball onto the post, Doumbia was the fastest player to follow up as he swept home the rebound.
Things almost got worse for the Reds on half-hour mark when the pacey Ahmed Musa turned and took aim from 30 yards, but De Gea leapt high to tip the dipping shot over the bar.
More possession followed for the Reds before the break, but a 25-yard shot from Wayne Rooney, which dropped wide, was the only real effort of any note.