Cristiano Ronaldo rescues Manchester United yet again with late goal at Atalanta

Portuguese attacker scores two, including stunning volley in injury time, to earn side 2-2 Champions League draw in Italy

Cristiano Ronaldo continued his one-man show for Manchester United in the Champions League as the Portuguese attacker grabbed a last-gasp leveller against Atalanta.

United were heading for a 2-1 defeat at the Stadio di Bergamo when the ball fell to Ronaldo outside the box and the veteran drilled home a stunning volley into the bottom corner.

Ronaldo had already levelled once for United in first-half injury time after Josip Ilicic had put the Italians in front but Ole Gunnar Solkaer's fell behind again when Duvan Zapata scored in the 56th minute.

United were generally second best for much of the match but Ronaldo, who scored a late winner in the reverse fixture against the Italians at Old Trafford and against Villarreal, delivered once again to keep United in pole position heading into the final two Group F games.

They sit top of the group level on seven points with Villarreal — who defeated Young Boys 2-0 — and two points ahead of Atalanta.

If United win their next game in Spain against Villarreal — whose manager Unai Emery looks set for a return to English football with Newcastle United — they are through to the knockout stage.

“It was a difficult game, I know when we play in Bergamo it is always difficult, but we believe until the end and I am so happy,” Ronaldo, who has scored nine goals in 11 games since returning to the Red Devils, told BT Sport after the game.

“We never give up, we believe until the end, it is a good result for us. The beginning was tough, we knew Atalanta would do a lot of pressure, they have a fantastic coach, when I played at Juventus they were always difficult to play against We were a little bit lucky in the end but that is football.

“We have to still improve, we have different players, different system, we have to adapt with each other, but it will take time. we have time to improve and be better.”

There was a frantic start in Bergamo and United almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances. Scott McTominay’s effort took a massive deflection off José Luis Palomino — completely wrong-footing Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso — and slowly rolled towards the empty net before bouncing off the left post.

Instead it was Atalanta that went in front in the 12th minute when Zapata crossed in from the left and Ilicic swept in a first-time shot which was straight at David de Gea but nevertheless squirmed under the body of the Spanish goalkeeper.

United almost drew level immediately as Ronaldo tried to latch on to a through ball but Musso was quick off his line and managed to get to it just before the Portugal forward.

But Atalanta were the more dangerous side and Zapata had two great opportunities. First, he sprung the offside trap to beautifully control a long ball over the top and bear down on De Gea’s goal but fired over.

Then, in the 32nd minute, only a fine block from the excellent Eric Bailly prevented Zapata from doubling his team's lead after Paul Pogba was again guilty of surrendering possession in a dangerous position.

Problems mounted for United as Raphael Varane had to go off with a hamstring injury, and the defender will likely be a doubt for Saturday's Premier League derby against Manchester City.

However, his replacement Mason Greenwood had a hand in the slick United equaliser as he received the ball from Ronaldo before picking out Bruno Fernandes in the area and he back-heeled it smartly for his compatriot to fire into the far side of the net.

Zapata had been a thorn in United’s side all night and he restored his team's lead in the 56th after springing the offside trap and dinking the ball over De Gea. There was a lengthy check by VAR before the goal was awarded.

De Gea somewhat atoned for his error on Atalanta's opener with a fine save late on to deny Zapata and that proved crucial as, shortly after, United levelled. Greenwood flicked on the ball to Ronaldo, who volleyed into the bottom left corner.

There was another lengthy VAR check for a possible handball by Greenwood before it was awarded.

Updated: November 2nd 2021, 10:37 PM
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