Champions League – Owen nets hat-trick for United

A hat-trick from Michael Owen gave injury-ravaged Manchester United a 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg at the Volkswagon Arena as they top Champions League Group B.

Owen gave United the lead a minute before half-time with a clinical headed finish from close-range to leave the German champions under the cosh as they battled for second spot in the group.

Bosnian Edin Dzeko hit back for the hosts with an instinctive finish in the 56th minute as his powerful header levelled the match up at 1-1, and the hosts sensed their opportunity.

Armin Veh’s side contrived to squander numerous clear-cut opportunities, but it was Owen who showed the required composure as he netted his second with a close-range finish in the 83rd minute.

Wolfsburg midfielder Sascha Riether missed a golden chance to equalise in stoppage time, but United broke at pace through Owen, who coolly dinked his shot over the diving Diego Benaglio to seal his hat-trick.

Having already made the knock-out stages, United’s mission in Germany was simply to draw to finish top in their group, but their cause was not helped with 15 players missing.

United were forced to field a makeshift side with Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher in defence, but the visitors battled valiantly to frustrate Wolfsburg, with only Dzeko troubling the frantically assembled back-four.

Despite a shoddy surface which was not remotely conducive to passing football, both sides attempted to stroke the ball, with the German champions seeking the valuable points to keep them in the hunt for the group’s second spot.

Wolfsburg will feel aggrieved after Carrick brought down Makoto Hasebe in the United box with a clumsy challenge in the 13th minute, but the Dutch referee handed the visitors a reprieve as he awarded a corner.

The German side proceeded to squander two glorious headed opportunities in the first half, as Andrea Barzagli inexplicably headed wide in the 18th minute and, moments later, Misimovic planted his effort wide after meeting Marcel Schafer’s cross, unmarked from close range.

It was hard work for the visitors on the turgid surface, but the pacey Danny Welbeck thought he had capped a fine move after a slick exchange from Paul Scholes and Darren Gibson on the half hour as he slotted in smartly, only to look up in dismay to see the offside flag.

With third-placed CSKA Moscow leading at half-time it was crucial the Germans got back into the game and 10 minutes into the second-half that is exactly what they did. United defended stoutly to stifle Dzeko, with the one exception being the Bosnian’s free header to level the scores after Schafer picked the striker out in space.

But Owen was on hand to make it two with an opportunist strike after stunning work from substitute Gabriel Obertan, who jinked mesmerically between three Wolfsburg defenders to provide the striker with the simplest of finishes.

Owen’s third was an individual effort as he broke down the left, then cut inside and across Ricardo Costa, before a delightful dink over the onrushing Benaglio to clinch victory for United and compound Wolfsburg’s frustration.

As a result of the victory, United are now unbeaten in their last 15 Champions League away games and have won the last five, while Wolfsburg are usurped by CSKA Moscow, who clinch second spot.

Ferguson will have been delighted with the application of his players, but will now have to turn his attention to the ensuing selection headache in the lead-up to his side’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa at the weekend.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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