Martial equalizer hands Manchester United draw at CSKA Moscow

The education of Anthony Martial continued on this brisk night outside Moscow. No one expected Martial to drop straight into the Manchester United first team without his fair share of teething. His role in this 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow on Tuesday accentuated the edges still left to smooth and underscored his potential to justify the lavish sum required to procure his services from AS Monaco in the summer.

Martial played an integral part in both goals as United secured this point at Arena Khimki. His failure to adequately track Mario Fernandes’ run led him to handle inside the penalty area and paved the way for Seydou Doumbia’s opener from the resulting penalty miss after just 15 minutes. His precision in front of goal punctuated United’s second-half improvement as he steered his header off the far post to claim a point.

United deserved nothing less on a night when they dictated terms in possession without wielding it menacingly. The arrival of Marouane Fellaini at halftime supplied a more robust element necessary to trouble CSKA more frequently. Martial’s cushioned header eventually produced the riposte, but United relied too much on David De Gea as CSKA threatened on the counter in the first half and squandered an opportunity to join VfL Wolfsburg on top of Group B in the process.

United manager Louis van Gaal opted to play Martial on the left once again after using the French forward to track Seamus Coleman in the 3-0 victory over Everton at the weekend. Martial faced a similar brief here as he tried to restrict Fernandes’ forays up the right, but his learning curve in that particular assignment cost United dearly in the opening stages.

It proved all too simple for CSKA to engineer the opener inside the opening quarter of an hour. Simple miscommunication between Martial and Marcus Rojo allowed Fernandes to drift behind the United line when Rojo closed too earnestly in the middle third. Fernandes collected and tried to loop back across Martial, but Martial handled in the processs. De Gea parried away Fernandes’ resulting drive, but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo pulled the play back and pointed to the spot.

Carballo’s curious decision paved the way for Alexei Eremenko handle the duties from the spot. De Gea produced a fine dive to his right to push the effort onto the post, but Doumbia beat everyone to the spot and tucked home the remnants to round off the move.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RESULTS

Van Gaal put the blame on Martial’s shoulders: "They had the present of an Anthony Martial penalty. Martial is a human being, he reacts and it is a stupid reaction, but sometimes these things happen. He said it is the first time it happens to him, if it always happens with me it’s a pity."

CSKA largely justified their lead for the remainder of the first half. Most of the incisive moves came from the home side with De Gea called into action to thwart Doumbia’s curling effort from distance after the half-hour. United mostly toiled in possession once again, even with Vasily Berezutskiy forced off just before halftime.

Van Gaal introduced Marouane Fellaini for Bastian Schweinsteiger at halftime to alter the calculus going forward. The arrival of a more direct element added more impetus to United’s work in the buildup and presented more of a threat to the increasingly vulnerable CSKA defense.

Fellaini’s height allowed United to diversify its approach play and presented room for others to exploit. Those efforts piled the pressure on CSKA until Martial snatched the equalizer after 65 minutes.

The move started with a ball out to the right by Morgan Scheneiderlin to allow Antonio Valencia to run at his marker. Valencia navigated his way into space and then swept his resulting cross back toward the penalty spot. Martial intelligently drifted into the space created by Fellaini’s initial run and tucked his pinpoint header off the far post to restore parity.

The goal proved no less than United deserved after improving in the second half, but the winner never quite arrived. Martial’s reply at least provided United with a point for its troubles.

"I was very happy with the performance," Van Gaal said. "I knew in advance that it would be a very difficult game because CSKA are very well organized and compact."

There is work ahead to muster the necessary sharpness in possession to carve open teams consistently on these Champions League nights, but this point permitted United to keep pace in Group B ahead of critical home fixtures against CSKA and PSV Eindhoven next month.

Wolfsburg 2, PSV Eindhoven 0

Wolfsburg defeated PSV Eindhoven 2-0 at home in the Champions League to go top of Group B.

A goal immediately after halftime from Bas Dost, followed by another within 11 minutes from Max Kruse, gave them a deserved victory against opponents who, on goal difference, had previously led their competitive Champions League group. The game remained goalless after a tight 45 minutes in which either team could have scored. Showing their desire to win immediately after the break, however, Wolfsburg instantly went on the attack.

A powerful shot from Joshua Guilavogui forced a decent diving save from PSV goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet, but the rebound fell to Dost, who gave his side the lead with a routine, close-range rebound. Dost threatened again before, with Davy Propper seeing his effort saved by Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, the hosts countered.

This time Julian Draxler led their attack, and though Zoet produced a fine save from the German’s shot to deny him, the loose ball was collected by the quick-thinking Daniel Caligiuri, who sent a perfectly-placed cross to Kruse, who then sent a simple header inside the far post. PSV’s finest chance to rescue something from the game – and at a stadium where Wolfsburg are undefeated in 27 Bundesliga fixtures – came and went with a 91st-minute penalty.

With the visitors attacking, Benaglio brought down Jurgen Locadia in the penalty area, before guessing correctly in diving to his right to push the Dutchman’s spot-kick away.

Information from FOXSoccer.com’s newswire services contributed to this report.