The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stuttgart punch catches United coach off-guard
VfB Stuttgart players rejoice after beating Manchester United 2-1 in the Champions League group match in Stuttgart on Wednesday. (AFP)
Alex Ferguson

Stuttgart: VfB Stuttgart coach Felix Magath has experienced few better moments in his life than Wednesday’s brave 2-1 Champions League win over Manchester United.

“This is one of the nicest victories in my career,” said the former Germany midfielder, who hit the winner in Hamburg SV’s 1-0 win over Juventus in the 1983 European Cup final.

More than 50,000 fans in the packed Gottlieb-Daimler stadium saw a highly entertaining Group E game and a deserved victory for the home team, who challenged their prestigious visitors straight from the kick off.

“The fact that we beat Manchester United in front of such a great crowd is simply fantastic,” said Magath.“We played ever so bravely and we got better as the match went on.”

United manager Alex Ferguson admitted he was impressed.

“We knew Stuttgart were a strong team but I didn’t expect them to be that strong,” he said.“Our goal remains the same. We need ten points (from the group stage) and I believe we will get them.”

The Bundesliga leaders did not look overawed by United in a tight first half and surprised the visitors’ defence with two goals in quick succession from strikers Imre Szabics and Kevin Kuranyi early in the second half.

The English champions stepped up a gear after that and were rewarded with a 67th spot kick that Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose penalty misses this season have been highly publicised, took and converted mercilessly.

The game remained lively until the end and defender Fernando Meira missed a chance to inflict further punishment on the visitors when his penalty was saved by United goalkeeper Tim Howard with ten minutes remaining.

Stuttgart’s Meira and Marcelo Bordon, hailed by Magath as the best pair of central defenders in the Bundesliga, played their part by neutralising Van Nistelrooy, who showed little apart from his penalty.

For most of the first half against Porto on Wednesday, Real Madrid looked like they were suffering from the malaise that sent them crashing to their first defeat of the season at Valencia on Saturday in the Spanish League.

Lethargic, slow to react and sluggish in defence, Real fell behind to a seventh minute Costinha goal in their Group F Champions League encounter.

Yet at the end they were emphatic and deserved 3-1 winners of a lively Iberian derby thanks to goals from Ivan Helguera, Santiago Solari and Zinedine Zidane. (Reuters)

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