MANCHESTER - Manchester United equalled a Champions League record of 19 games without defeat and secured top spot in Group E following a 2-2 draw with Danish underdogs AaB Aalborg on Wednesday. Despite the draw, United ensured they would finish as group winners after their nearest rivals, Villarreal, were beaten by already-eliminated Celtic in Wednesday's other Group E encounter. United, fielding a weakened team, took an early lead through Carlos Tevez but their unbeaten run in the competition was under threat at halftime after Aalborg scored through Michael Jakobsen and Jeppe Curth. Aalborg's hopes of winning their first away game in the competition were dashed soon after the restart, however, thanks to Wayne Rooney's 51st-minute equaliser. United had gone ahead in the third minute when Tevez, who started in place of Dimitar Berbatov, ran on to a through-ball from Ryan Giggs to shoot past Karim Zaza. The Argentine international missed a chance to double the lead moments later when a pass from Rooney again left him with just Zaza to beat. Just when it looked as though United were in for a night of shooting practice, with Jonny Evans, Tevez and Nani all failing to score from inviting positions, Aalborg stunned the defending champions. Jakobsen's neat header from a Anders Due free-kick beat United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak in the 31st minute. The Danish champions, who had already secured a UEFA Cup spot, punished United for their complacency by unexpectedly taking the lead on the stroke of halftime. Due led a breakaway and crossed for Curth to score with a superbly placed header. United manager Alex Ferguson responded by sending on Paul Scholes and Park Ji-sung at the start of the second half and to his relief United were level within six minutes. Rooney's frustration threatened to boil over several times as he was involved in spats with a couple of Aalborg players but he managed to keep his cool while collecting Anderson's fine pass to drill in a low shot past Zaza from 18 yards. United, missing European player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo through injury, then went on to dominate but could not find a winning goal.
10 December 2008
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