Cluj eliminated despite win at United
MANCHESTER, England (AP)
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES
|Wednesday, December 5|
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CFR Cluj beat a below-strength Manchester United 1-0 thanks to Luis Alberto's fabulous second-half strike but was denied a spot in the last 16 of the Champions League by Galatasaray's victory in Braga on Wednesday.
The unheralded Romanian side finished Group H level on 10 points with Galatasaray, which won 2-1 in Portugal, but behind the Turkish team courtesy of the head-to-head record.
Cluj will still head into the Europa League as third-place finisher in good heart after a surprise win at Old Trafford, with Luis Alberto sending a swerving 25-yard shot high into the net in the 56th minute.
United played a virtual reserve team with first place guaranteed, and paid the price despite dominating most of the match.
It was a disappointing way for Alex Ferguson to mark his 200th match in charge of United in the European Cup, but the result will not overly worry the Scottish manager ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby in the Premier League.
Ferguson, who sat in the directors' box rather than the dug-out for the first half, made 10 changes to his starting team - with Wayne Rooney the only survivor from the 4-3 win at Reading on Saturday - and will wonder how it was 0-0 at the break.
Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck squandered gilt-edged headed chances from close range and Rooney, with a deft chip from the angle, was also denied by the overworked Cluj goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras.
Cluj wasn't without its chances, either, as some comedy defending by Smalling and then Scott Wootton gifted chances to two separate opportunities Modou Sougou, who wasted both.
And it was another United mistake that eventually allowed Cluj to open the scoring.
Paul Scholes - on as a substitute for Tom Cleverley late in the first half - gave the ball away sloppily on halfway and Luis Alberto capitalized, running unchecked toward the edge of the area before smashing a high, swerving shot in off the post.
It was the fifth time in six group matches that United had gone behind this European campaign - and the 15th time in all competitions this season - and it couldn't recover.
Cluj's delight turned to dismay, though, when news of Galatasaray's comeback in Braga got through to fans.