With one round to go, Manchester United completes business in Athens

Uruguayan Diego Forlan scored a late goal Wednesday night as Manchester United advanced to the final 16 of the Champions League by beating Panathinaikos 1-0. Forlan netted the winner in the 85th minute after four previously unsuccessful attempts on goal. Both teams seemed happy to get the draw in the first half but the action picked up in the last 45 minutes. Manchester United dominated much of the match, but the English side left itself vulnerable to lively counterattacks by a spirited Panathinaikos. Stuttgart, which beat Glasgow Rangers 1-0 in the other Group E match, and United both have 12 points and will play each other in the last game of this round. Rangers, with four points, needs just a draw at home in its final match against Panathinaikos to clinch third place and a spot in the UEFA Cup. The Greek team has only one point. Panathinaikos coach Itzhak Shum fielded a defense-minded squad, hoping to gain at least a point and perhaps also to avoid a repeat of the 5-0 thrashing when the two sides last met. «Most of the time we controlled the game. There was the odd occasion when Panathinaikos threatened us but we seemed to deal with this quite well,» Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson said. «Psychologically, it’s always better to win your group and that’s what we’ll try to do,» he added. With captain Roy Keane resting and some key players, including star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, on the bench, Manchester was slow to get into the match. A lifeless first half saw only one real scoring opportunity when a blistering low drive by United’s Forlan in the 26th minute was pushed away by goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. In the 57th, Joel Epalle, who replaced Lucian Sanmartean in the 46th, shot from outside the area, but United’s keeper Tim Howard saved well. The ever-dangerous Ryan Giggs squandered a clear opportunity in the 68th, kicking the ball wide from just a few meters after a deflected cross from 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo. Five minutes before the end of the match, David Bellion, who replaced Darren Fletcher in the 73rd, passed to Forlan whose shot from inside the area should have been saved by a diving Nikopolidis. The goal left Panathinaikos too much to do with too little time. «When you play Manchester United, it’s a great honor to beat them, but we couldn’t do it today. We didn’t deserve to lose the game,» said Shum. «Now we have to beat Rangers.» (AP)