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Scholes late show seals United win
15 Sep 2009 - 21:58:46
Paul Scholes ensured Manchester United started their Champions League campaign in winning fashion after his second-half header secured a 1-0 victory over Besiktas in Turkey.
The Red Devils were hoping to take a first step towards forgetting last season's final disappointment at the hands of Barcelona in Rome, but for long spells of the game in Istanbul they came up against spirited opposition looking to cause an upset.
But with United looking more threatening following the second-half arrivals of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen off the bench, it was the wily old head of Scholes who ensured their Group B campaign started in positive fashion.
Sir Alex Ferguson had opted to ring the changes ahead of the weekend's Premier League derby encounter with Manchester City.
Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and John O'Shea all stood down and starts were handed to Luis Antonio Valencia, Nani, Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans.
Valencia was particularly lively in the first half with some intelligent running and neat touches on his Champions League debut.
Carrick saw a 25-yard drive plucked out of the air by Hakan Arikan after 13 minutes as United settled quickly, before Valencia's flicked header from a corner brought a smart fingertip save from the keeper.
But for all United's dominance in possession, it was Besiktas who came closest to opening the scoring in the first half when Serdar Ozkan's shot looped just over the crossbar off the legs of Evans on 27 minutes.
Carrick came close to forcing the ball over the goalline in the opening moments of the second half but the home side survived an immediate scare following some brave defending from Matteo Ferrari.
With United unable to unlock a well-drilled home defence, Ferguson sent on Berbatov and Owen for Carrick and Rooney on 63 minutes as he switched to a more offensive formation.
Owen was incorrectly flagged offside when Scholes played him clear through on goal after picking off a loose pass soon after the striker entered the fray.
Valencia drilled a cross-cum-shot inches wide off the far post as United began to look more threatening, while Owen mistimed a close-range header at the near post and looked slightly relieved when the flag went up again for offside.
But United didn't have to wait too long to make the breakthrough as it came in the 77th minute via the head of Scholes.
Arikan did well to parry a thunderous strike from Nani but only succeeded in diverting the ball to the veteran midfielder, who looped a simple header back into the empty net from 12 yards.
Roared on by a vocal home support, Besiktas refused to throw in the towel and Patrice Evra had to be alert to block an angled shot from Marcio Ferreira Nobre in the final 10 minutes.
Nobre was then inches away from meeting substitute Nihat Kahveci's dangerous cross as Besiktas came close to forcing a late equaliser.
But on a night where Ben Foster didn't have a serious save to make, United returned to Manchester with a useful three Champions League opening night points safely in their pockets on a night of few scares.