VILLARREAL - Holders Manchester United and Villarreal cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare on Tuesday after sharing their fourth successive goalless draw. The top two have nine points from five matches in Group E, four points ahead of AaB Aalborg who beat Celtic 2-1 in Denmark. Villarreal's Diego Lopez was the busier goalkeeper, turning a Cristiano Ronaldo drive on to the bar in the first half and saving a Wayne Rooney volley at close quarters in the second. Left back Joan Capdevila of Villarreal was sent off eight minutes from time for a dangerous high tackle on Ronaldo. It was a straight red card and United manager Alex Ferguson, who had spoken before the match of Ronaldo's need for protection from rough defenders, praised Italian referee Roberto Rosetti. "A strong referee is always an advantage in football today," Ferguson told ITV Sport. "In the second half we improved our possession of the ball. I'm satisfied with our performance, we controlled the game." CAUGHT OFFSIDE Ferguson added that Villarreal, who also drew 0-0 with United in September and twice more at the same stage of the 2005-06 Champions League, looked happy to soak up pressure knowing a draw would be enough to progress. The visitors were twice caught offside in early attacks, one of which ended with Rooney putting the ball in the net. United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak made his first save from Santi Cazorla at the near post after a quarter of an hour. Four minutes before the interval Ronaldo received a layoff from Rooney outside the box and let fly with a stinging shot, Lopez plunging to his left to deflect the ball on to his bar. Lopez also dived to save at the base of his right post early in the second half after a free kick by Ronaldo, top scorer in the competition last season with eight goals but yet to open his account this campaign. United almost broke the deadlock 10 minutes from time when a low Rooney cross from the left was deflected towards goal and Capdevila headed off the line and over the bar.
25 November 2008
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