[Champions League] Olympiacos 2-0 Manchester United
Olympiacos: Alejandro Dominguez (38), Joel Campbell (55)
Manchester United will have to overturn a two-goal deficit to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals after slipping to a first-leg defeat in Athens.
The Reds produced a laboured performance against the Greek champions at Karaiskakis Stadium and succumbed to goals in each half from Alejandro Dominguez and Joel Campbell.
United showed more urgency as the game wore on, but lacked potency in attack and David Moyes will want a big improvement in the second leg at Old Trafford in three weeks.
For most of the first half, both sides struggled to fashion any goalscoring chances of note. Nemanja Vidic made a superb early block to deny Dominguez as he was about to pull the trigger and it took 17 minutes for United to fashion a first half-chance, but Tom Cleverley could only skew a volley over the bar following a corner.
The game was largely being played in the middle third but, as seems to have happened often this season, the Reds fell behind in unfortunate circumstances in the 38th minute as Dominguez diverted Giannis Maniatis' shot past a stranded David De Gea.
United came out after the break with more purpose but were undone again when Campbell bent an excellent shot past an unsighted De Gea. Moyes brought on Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa in a bid to inject some life into his team but home keeper Roberto remained untroubled and Michael Olaitan came within inches of scoring Olympiacos’ third.
United suddenly sprung into life with 10 minutes left and Robin van Persie missed a golden opportunity to net a vital away goal, blasting over from 12 yards after controlling Chris Smalling’s cross. It summed up a miserable evening but the Reds will have another bite at the cherry on 19 March.
The match Olympiacos began at a brisk pace, which United noticeably tried to manage with a considered possession game. It worked to a point, with the Greek champions struggling to trouble the Reds’ defence. But the visitors weren’t creating any meaningful chances either and the home side will feel their greater industry merited Alejandro Dominguez’s first goal. It became an uphill task soon after the interval when Joel Campbell added a second but what will disappoint David Moyes most is that his team only came to life in the game’s final throes, when Robin van Persie fired over United’s best opportunity.
The goals Olympiacos’ opener was somewhat fortuitous but Dominguez did well to get something on Giannis Maniatis's wayward shot to deflect it past a helpless David De Gea. The hosts’ second goal was a quality strike, though, as Joel Campbell nutmegged Michael Carrick before bending home a left-footed shot.
Star man Nemanja Vidic won almost everything in the air and made several well-timed challenges. His last-ditch tackle to deny Dominguez, after the Argentinian had glided past several players, was exceptional and if anyone did not deserve to be on the losing side, it was the Reds’ captain.
Sub-plot United went into the game as favourites, having topped Group A without defeat, as well as boasting four wins from four previous encounters with Olympiacos. But the Piraeus outfit put in a spirited display to become the first Greek side ever to beat the Reds.
The opposition Shorn of experienced striker Javier Saviola, having already sold Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham, Olympiacos looked a little toothless early on, despite their hustle. But the first goal gave them confidence and they went on to contain their more illustrious opponents relatively comfortably.
Move of the match A neat early exchange between Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and van Persie was pleasing on the eye but broke down when the latter was unable to get a shot on target, which typified United’s attacking efforts all evening.
In the stands Olympiacos’ famously partisan fans were in full voice well before kick-off and generated a colourful, raucous atmosphere throughout the game, booing heartily every time United were in possession. But the small pocket of travelling Reds did their best to make themselves heard above the din, despite being well outnumbered.