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Nistelrooy brace clinches issue for Manchester United

Manchester: Ruud van Nistelrooy struck twice as Manchester United stamped their authority on Champions League Group D with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Spain’s Deportivo la Coruna at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Van Nistelrooy scored after seven and 55 minutes and also had two efforts disallowed in a devastating display that helped lift United’s second phase points tally to six out of six before the competition’s winter hibernation.

While United head the section from second-placed Juventus on four points, Deportivo are third and Basel bottom yet to get off the mark.

The only negative for United was a first-half booking for Juan Sebastian Veron, who will now be suspended from their next game, against Juventus in Manchester in February.

United went ahead after only seven minutes when Van Nistelrooy stretched his neck muscles to head a quality Paul Scholes cross into the corner of the net.

Then the Dutchman rammed in a ball into the roof of the net from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s cutback to make it 2-0.

Van Nistelrooy continued to cause chaos as a dominant United saw out time and Ferguson was even able to give 10 minutes’ action to Beckham, whose rib problem had sidelined him for a month.

Barcelona overpowered Newcastle United 3-1 at home in a Group A clash to claim a record-equalling 10th successive win (set by AC Milan in 1992-93) in Europe’s top competition and put their domestic troubles behind them.

Dani put the home side ahead seven minutes into a game that was being played a day late after heavy rain made the pitch unplayable on Tuesday.

Newcastle equalised through Shola Ameobi on 24 minutes but the visitors could not translate a 15-minute spell of pressure into goals. Barcelona duly recovered and Patrick Kluivert put them back ahead 10 minutes before the break.

A header from Thiago Motta, which Newcastle claimed had not crossed the line, provided a clinching third on 58 minutes to make it a night to forget for Newcastle’s former Barcelona boss Bobby Robson on his return Nou Camp.

Victory for the Catalans took them level with Inter Milan at the top of the group with a maximum six points. Newcastle and Bayer Leverkusen are both still without a point.

An inspired second half comeback from Lokomotiv Moscow earned a surprise 2-2 draw against title holders Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in a Group C match leaving the title holders at the bottom of the group.

Real face a worrying winter break having gone six games without a win in a competition that they have virtually made their own in the last few years, winning three of the last five seasons.

Real started well enough with Raul giving them the lead in the 21st minute when he nipped into the area, turned a defender and then threaded a neat left-foot shot under keeper Sergei Ovchinnikov.

Ronaldo, who has yet to score for Real in the Champions League, spurned a string of early clear-cut chances. The champions appeared content to settle on their narrow lead and quickly eased up.

Lokomotiv, though, were far from finished and three minutes after the break substitute James Obiorah cut into the area, shrugged off challenges from two defenders before stabbing home past Iker Casillas to level the scores.

South African midfielder Benni Mnguni broke free on the right, cut into the area and fired home past Casillas to give the Russian side the lead in the 74th minute. Raul restored parity when he bundled into the net after Ovchinnikov had palmed a Luis Figo cross on to his chest.

AC Milan stayed firmly on course for a spot in the knock-out stage with a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund.

The quicksilver forward latched on to a Clarence Seedorf pass to hit the winner with an angled effort from inside the area in the 49th minute.

Milan failed to repeat their magnificent performance against Real last week but did enough to take some revenge for a 0-4 thrashing by the German side on their last visit to Dortmund, in the first leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final last April.

Milan top the group with six points, followed by Dortmund on three, Lokomotiv Moscow on one and Real Madrid bottom with just one point from two games. Italian champions Juventus ruthlessly exposed the defensive frailties of Swiss side Basel with a 4-0 win in their group D match.

French striker Trezeguet, back from injury, put Juventus ahead in the third minute, heading home unmarked at the back post after Mark Iuliano had nodded a Del Piero corner his way.

They doubled the lead in the 34th minute, when Swiss keeper Pascal Zuberbuehler tipped a blistering Del Piero free-kick against the underside of the bar — only for Montero to react quickly to force the ball over the line.

Two minutes before the break, a poor clearance from Basel defender Marco Zwyssig fell straight to Tacchinardi who scored with a spectacular shot — knocking the ball up with his right foot and volleying it home with his left from 25 metres.

Six minutes into the second half, Edgar Davids picked the ball up in midfield and split the Swiss defence with ease picking out Del Piero. The striker slipped the ball inside to Pavel Nedved who was barged to the ground by Antonio Esposito. Del Piero converted the penalty with his customary composure to ensure the rest of the game was little more than a formality. (Reuters)

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