Cristiano Ronaldo did it to Atalanta again. For the second straight match, the Italian side was in the lead against Manchester United, only to watch the Portuguese superstar deny them victory. Ronaldo equalized on two occasions with the final blow coming in second-half stoppage time. The 2-2 draw salvaged a point for Man United and kept them atop the Group F standings with two games to play.
Atalanta led 2-0 at Old Trafford two weeks ago and the Red Devils stormed back for an incredible 3-2 win in their last head-to-head matchup. This time in Italy, Atalanta went up 1-0 and 2-1, but Ronaldo found a way to respond each time.
Ronaldo’s first strike to make it 1-1 came just before halftime on a lightning quick combination with teammate Bruno Fernandes that Atalanta never saw coming. And then in second-half stoppage time, Ronaldo blasted an accurate first-time shot from outside the box to stun the crowd at Stadio di Bergamo as the ball tucked inside the left post.
The Red Devils’ resurgence continues in the wake of a humiliating 5-0 Premier League home loss to Liverpool that nearly cost manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job. The Norwegian coach was allowed to continue and immediately changed Man United’s formation to a 3-5-2 that worked to near perfection in a 3-0 road win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. Solskjaer started the match in Italy with the same 3-5-2 tactical set-up, but an injury to the team’s best defender, Raphael Varane, meant that Manchester United was forced to ditch the 3-5-2 and resort to the 4-2-3-1 in the first half.
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Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata was one of the best players on the field, but he couldn’t add to his goal and assist despite being a constant thorn in United’s side. On the other end of the field, Man United rarely threatened Atalanta’s back line. The visitors needed two moments of genius from their star forward, who pulled them from the jaws of defeat once again.
“[Ronaldo] is one of the best that’s ever played this game. I’m sure this is the same feeling Chicago Bulls got with Michael Jordan…. If you want the ball to fall to someone in the last minute, @Cristiano is the one.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reflects on today’s game. pic.twitter.com/r40ByzwNW5
WATCH: Atalanta vs. Manchester United on fuboTV
ATA — Josip Ilicic (Duvan Zapata) — 12th min.
MANU — Cristiano Ronaldo (Bruno Fernandes) — 46th+ min.
ATA — Duvan Zapata (Jose Palomino) — 58th min.
MANU — Cristiano Ronaldo (Mason Greenwood) — 91st+ min.
(All times Eastern)
91st min.: The only way Manchester United was going to score was through Cristiano Ronaldo and he finds the net on a fantastic shot from outside the box. Incredible strike through traffic. Low, accurate finish inside the left post.
CRISTIANO RONALDO DOES IT AGAIN 😳 pic.twitter.com/alMk5dK2AV
87th min.: SUBS – Van De Beek is on for Man United in place of Bruno Fernandes and he doesn’t like it. Jadon Sancho also enters the match.
85th min.: Zapata is more dangerous than the entire Man United attack. He takes another shot on goal and David De Gea has to come up with the big stop.
79th min.: Duvan Zapata header over the bar from a right-sided cross. He looks like he can score another. Atalanta’s forwards have posed a massive challenge for Manchester United’s defenders.
71st min.: SUB – Atalanta counters by bringing in another forward, Luis Muriel (for Ilicic), to partner with Colombian compatriot Duvan Zapata.
68th min.: SUBS – Man United making some changes to add a spark to the attack. Nemanja Matic (for Pogba) and Edinson Cavani (for Rashford). The Red Devils need to speed things up in attack, because Atalanta are comfortable in defense.
58th min.: The goal stands! Zapata beats center back Bailly and then Harry Maguire before slotting it home. Atalanta takes the lead for the second time.
UNITED GO DOWN AGAIN 😬 pic.twitter.com/kEF5LBpVKC
56th min.: Duvan Zapata scores for Atalanta, but the flag goes up. Zapata timed his run in behind really well. If he was offside, it was by the tightest of margins. VAR is checking it.
51st min.: Yellow for Scott McTominay for a stray arm on Atalanta’s Joakim Maehle.
49th min.: Man United’s Greenwood hits the right post! But he’s offside. Wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in.
46th min.: Second half underway and Atalanta is immediately on the front foot.
Halftime: Atalanta had a strong grip on this game in the first half. Between Manchester United giveaways and strong play from Atalanta’s centerbacks, midfielders (Teun Koopmeiners) and forwards Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic, the home team bossed the game and could’ve found at least one more goal. Not only did Man United fall behind, but it had to change its formation after losing its best defender, Raphael Varane, to injury. But Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo rescued the Red Devils with a world-class play that Ronaldo finished. Man United is still alive.
46th min.: Goal Man United! It’s Ronaldo! What a quick penetrating passing move between Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo and it’s CR7 with the easy shot. Atalanta didn’t even see it. That’s how fast it happened. Ronaldo to the rescue again.
WHO ELSE BUT CRISTIANO. RONALDO. 😤 pic.twitter.com/u084ROYTq1