Piraeus - Manchester
United were shunted towards an unscheduled exit in the Champions League
after crashing to a shock 2-0 defeat at Olympiakos in their last 16
first-leg match on Tuesday.
WRAP: Champions League
Goals from Alejandro Dominguez and
Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell gave Olympiakos victory at a raucous
Karaiskakis Stadium, to leave the Greek champions on the brink of the
last eight for the first time since 1999.
It was the first time
United had ever lost to a Greek team, but their error-prone display was
fully in keeping with a season in which the self-belief of the Alex
Ferguson era has thoroughly abandoned them.
Previously unbeaten in
the group phase, David Moyes's side conceded defeat with a whimper on a
chastening night in the Athenian port of Piraeus, failing to muster a
single shot on target.
Eleven points off fourth-place Liverpool in
the Premier League, their hopes of playing in next season's Champions
League were already fading, and they now face a fight to stay alive in
this season's competition in the return leg on March 19.
coach Michel had wondered in his pre-match press conference whether
United's players would feel "burdened" by expectation, and in the
opening stages his side were happy to let the visitors make problems for
A sloppy pass from Rio Ferdinand gave Hernan Perez a
free run down the left flank and although that came to nought, moments
later Nemanja Vidic had to launch himself into a last-ditch block after
an untimely slip by Chris Smalling enabled Dominguez to drive into the
Perez then slammed a shot into the side-netting after
leaving Smalling in his wake, and with a wayward Tom Cleverley shot the
best United could muster in reply, the hosts' 38th-minute opener came as
little surprise.- Opportunistic flick -
cross from the right was only partially cleared and although Giannis
Maniatis's low shot appeared to be heading straight at United goalkeeper
David de Gea, Dominguez's opportunistic flick sent the ball skidding
into the opposite corner.
It was the first time United had gone behind in this season's competition, and there was worse to come.
Manolas headed a Wayne Rooney free-kick narrowly over his own bar
before half-time, but Olympiakos were the first side to threaten in the
second half, with Perez working De Gea from 20 yards.
United's need, the English champions seemed unable to establish a
foothold in the opposition's half and in the 55th minute they found
themselves 2-0 down.
It was a goal that shone with the invention
that United had been missing, as Campbell picked up the ball on the
right, insouciantly nutmegged Michael Carrick, and arced a 25-yard shot
into the bottom-left corner with his left foot.
The goal drew a
disbelieving roar from the home support and within moments Moyes had
reacted by introducing Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck in place of
Cleverley and Antonio Valencia.
But still Olympiakos came, with
Michael Olaitan lashing a snapshot narrowly over, and when a presentable
chance finally fell to Robin van Persie in the 82nd minute, he blasted
wastefully into the stands.