Four-goal Ruud sinks Sparta
By Adam Marshall. Last Updated: 03/11/04 9:35pm
Ruud van Nistelrooy's four-goal haul smoothed Manchester United's passage past Sparta Prague as former Red Devil Karel Poborsky was sent off in a 4-1 defeat for the Czech visitors.
Van Nistelrooy, suspended for domestic action due to the FA action taken over his challenge on Ashley Cole, bagged four for the first time in his Old Trafford career to see off dogged opponents who certainly contributed to an entertaining evening of UEFA Champions League football.
United started shakily with Poborsky whistling a shot over Roy Carroll's bar but Gabriel Heinze served notice of the hosts' intentions with a piledriver that hit a post with Jaromir Blazek beaten all ends up.
Wayne Rooney and Tomas Jun traded efforts and Cristiano Ronaldo had a shot blocked by Blazek before the deadlock was promptly broken in the 14th minute when a dreadful back-pass by Jiri Homola gifted van Nistelrooy with a simple opportunity. The Dutchman rounded Blazek to tap home the first of his quartet.
A terrible miss from the out-of-sorts Paul Scholes, as he headed wastefully wide following approach work from Ronaldo and Ferdinand, mattered little as, after van Nistelrooy had just failed to connect with an inviting Rooney through ball, the former PSV Eindhoven star was able to score from the spot. Scholes had been felled by Martin Petras inside the box, although the England international appeared to be going to ground before making contact with the defender.
Carroll was kept busy before half time as he denied Poborsky and then made an astounding double save to frustrate Jun and Lukas Zelenka after Heinze had carelessly lost possession to the lively Poborsky.
Seconds after that incident, Ronaldo should have wrapped things up before the interval but he is still looking for his first goal of the season after firing straight at Blazek in a one-on-one situation.
Zelenka, probably Sparta's most impressive performer, finished off a lovely move by converting a Jun pass on 53 minutes but any United nerves were eased when Heinze's hopeful punt forward eluded Radoslav Kovac and van Nistelrooy pounced to expertly loop his finish over Blazek.
Chances continued to come thick and fast with Jun forcing Carroll into a smart save and Ronaldo denied by Blazek after hammering a short free-kick tapped to him by Roy Keane.
United captain Keane was fortunate not to concede a penalty when appearing to up-end Tomas Sivok and the Czechs were even more upset with referee Alain Hamer when he sent off Poborsky for a second bookable offence. The veteran midfielder received a decent ovation from the crowd as he made his way off the field after being cautioned for protesting against the first half penalty and then making a late tackle on Heinze.
Van Nistelrooy squandered a good chance with time running out but he was allowed another opportunity to grab his fourth when Liam Miller's centre found him unmarked, and looking suspiciously off-side, he touched the ball into the unguarded net.
|Man United||Team Statistics||Sparta Prague|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||7|
|6||Shots off Target||10|
UEFA Champions League
Wed 3rd Nov - Group B
Dynamo Kiev2 - 2R Madrid
Roma1 - 1Leverkusen
Wed 3rd Nov - Group C
Mac Tel Avi2 - 1Ajax
Bay Munich0 - 1Juventus
Wed 3rd Nov - Group D
Lyon4 - 2Fenerbahce
Man Utd4 - 1Sp Prague
Wed 3rd Nov - Group A
Deportivo0 - 1Liverpool
Olympiakos1 - 0Monaco
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