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SOCCER

Manchester United survives Galatasaray scare

Manchester United's Champions League campaign last season was characterized by nervous play and uninspiring finishes.

The club's first European match of this season yielded a similar performance.

The Red Devils opened up their Champions League season on Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat of Galatasaray at Old Trafford, riding an early goal from Michael Carrick and some key stops from the woodwork and David De Gea to all three points in its first match in Group H.

Manchester United made a strong start with Carrick opening the scoring in just the seventh minute. He latched on to a through ball with a perfectly-timed run and skipped past Fernando Musiera. The Galatasaray 'keeper tripped Carrick in the process, but the United midfielder rose quickly and slotted the ball into the empty net.

The visitors nearly equalized shortly after when Nordin Amrabat capped a counter-attack with a curling shot from distance that grazed the top of De Gea's crossbar on its way out of play.

Galatasaray struck the frame once more before the close of the half as Selcuk Inan played a deceptive free kick to the top of the box for Hamit Altintop. The former Bayern Munich midfielder slipped a shot through traffic that kissed the outside of De Gea's left post.

United came close to doubling their advantage seven minutes after the restart when Rafeal was brought down in the penalty area, but Nani was unable to convert from the spot as Musiera parried the poorly-taken shot to safety.

The Turkish side nearly made United pay for that miss when it hit the woodwork for a third time in the match. Inan's header in the 56th minute looked destined for the far upper corner of the net, but De Gea was relieved to watch the effort hit the outside of the post instead.

Galatasaray continued to heap pressure on the United net, forcing De Gea into a pair of fine saves in the 72nd minute. Burak Yilmaz had his right-footed shot parried away by the Spanish goalkeeper. De Gea then rose to his feet and denied Emre Colak, tipping his shot away to deny the visitors an equalizer.

It proved to be a crucial stop for the home side as United failed to add to their lead.

Manchester United sits tied atop Group H with CFR Cluj, which claimed a vital 2-0 road victory over Braga thanks to a brace from Rafael Bastos.

In Group G, Barcelona narrowly avoided an embarrassing home loss to Spartak Moscow as Lionel Messi scored twice in the span of eight minutes to see the Catalans overturn a one-goal deficit in a 3-2 win at Camp Nou. The result puts the Spanish side on top of the group after Celtic and Benfica played to a 0-0 draw at Parkhead.

In Group F, Nelson Valdez's stoppage-time goal was not enough to overturn goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos as Bayern Munich edged Valencia, 2-1, at the Allianz Arena. BATE Borisov also claimed an early three points, rolling to a 3-1 victory at Lille.

And in Group E, Oscar scored twice in as many minutes to lift Chelsea to a two-goal lead at Stamford Bridge, but Arturo Vidal and Fabio Quagliarella netted goals for Juventus to see the Champions League holders settle for a 2-2 draw at the beginning of their title defense. Shakhtar Donetsk also emerged victorious from its first game of the haul, getting a brace from Henrik Mkhitaryan to beat FC Nordsjaelland 2-0.