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Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011

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What a start: Manchester United players celebrate after rallying past Manchester City to win the Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. AP PHOTO

Nani lifts United in curtain-raiser

AP

WEMBLEY, England — Manchester United showed Manchester City that it still has some way to go to before it can take over as English soccer's leading force, recovering from 2-0 down to beat its local rival 3-2 in Sunday's season-opening Community Shield.

Portugal winger Nani completed the Premier League champion's remarkable comeback in injury time, scoring his second goal of the game after robbing City captain Vincent Kompany of possession near Wembley's halfway line.

Having trailed to first-half goals by Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko despite dominating chances and possession, United got back in the game when Chris Smalling tapped in Ashley Young's 52nd-minute free kick. Seven minutes later, Nani lifted the ball over goalkeeper Joe Hart to round off a sparkling team move.

The match looked to be heading for a penalty shootout until Nani won the ball from Kompany in the fourth minute of injury time, ran unchallenged into the area and rounded Hart to score.

"We all believe until the last minute and the attitude of the lads in the second half was that everyone believed we could score," Nani said. "It is good to play against Man City and win like that. I think our fans today will be so proud of us.

"It is a beautiful day to enjoy."

Lescott was arguably City's best player, blocking a close-range effort by Smalling on the line and deflecting a free kick by Nani past the post before he headed in David Silva's 38th-minute free kick.

The central defender also made a crucial challenge on Wayne Rooney in the 69th when United had worked a three-on-two opening, but City's attacking players were overshadowed by Nani, Ashley Young, Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

"It just confirms what I thought about the squad," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "People were saying that we're not the best United squad and things like that, but you got to remember a lot of these young players have improved.

"These boys are good players."

Argentina forward Sergio Aguero was an unused substitute for City, which had seemed happy to settle for a penalty shootout until Nani's second goal.

United cleared a corner kick up to halfway and Kompany was beaten by Nani. With the United fans roaring, the winger outpaced his opponent, dodged to the left around Hart and hit the winner.

"I tried to chip it but the keeper stayed on his feet, so at the last second I changed my mind," Nani said.

Although the game had been littered with yellow cards and rash tackles, City manager Roberto Mancini made sure his players returned to the field to applaud their victorious opponents.

"It is correct," Mancini said. "It is right because they won. But we are happy because we played this game and we want to play this game every year if possible."

But the game itself was far from charitable, with City striker Mario Balotelli squaring up to Nemanja Vidic and rolling on the ground claiming injury when he fell attempting to get out of a tackle by Nani.

Balotelli disappeared up the tunnel when he was substituted in the second half, prompting more criticism from Mancini.

"I think he can do his job better," Mancini said. "He can play better than today but it is important that he work for the team like the other players."

Dzeko and Anderson were both booked in the first half when they went chest to chest following the striker's tackle from behind, while City fullback Micah Richards was lucky not to get a red card for a high two-footed lunge on Young on the left corner of the area.

Referee Phil Dowd only booked the defender.

But the 77,169 fans at Wembley were also treated to plenty of entertaining soccer, most of it from United.

Young, Nani, Rooney and Welbeck — picked to play up front instead of Dimitar Berbatov — combined well without carving open clear openings.

Lescott beat Rio Ferdinand to the ball to make it 1-0 before new United goalkeeper David de Gea was at fault for Dzeko's goal — allowing the Bosnia striker's speculative shot in first-half injury time to slip over his outstretched hand.

It was only at 2-0 down that United really hurt City.

Ferguson revamped his central defense in what he said was a planned move for the second half, introducing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans for Vidic and Ferdinand, and brought on young midfielder Tom Cleverley for Michael Carrick.

Cleverley was key to the move that was started and finished by Nani, taking a pass from Rooney and slipping it to the Portugal winger to finish from about six meters.

United goalkeeper David De Gea atoned for his error late on when he punched away a goal-bound effort by substitute Adam Johnson, keeping the score at 2-2 and setting the scene for Nani's winner.



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