By DAN ITEL
A Robin van Persie hat trick rescued Manchester United and — for the time being — embattled head coach David Moyes in Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 matchup against Olympiakos, giving his side a 3-0 win at Old Trafford that sees them through to the quarterfinals.
Van Persie, who provided some cause for concern after being taken off on a stretcher in late action, converted on a first-half penalty, slotted home a Wayne Rooney cross just before halftime and then curled in a beautifully struck free kick in the second half. Manchester United came into the second leg down 2-0 in aggregate and were coming off a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool over the weekend, leading to calls for Moyes’ job.
But the Red Devils were able to overcome the deficit, the first time they’ve accomplished such a feat in 30 years, behind a nearly flawless performance. It even included a clever touch from the United manager when he started 40-year-old Ryan Giggs at midfield. It was a long ball by Giggs that found Van Persie behind the Olympiakos defense, leading to the early penalty-kick foul that opened the scoring.
United goalkeeper David de Gea played his part in the first half, coming up with a double save off two blistering shots, first from Hernan Perez and then off a rebound shot by David Fuster, to preserve the lead.
Then in the 25th minute, Van Persie took a left-footed one-touch off a Rooney cross for the second goal. He sealed the victory with a right-footed free kick in the 52nd minute.
DORTMUND THROUGH TO QUARTERS DESPITE LOSS
All Borussia Dortmund had to do was hold on tight to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, and that’s exactly what they did despite suffering a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at home to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Coming in with a 4-2 away win under their belts, the German side played out the proceedings in conservative fashion. A 16th-minute strike for Zenit’s Hulk gave the visitors brief hope, but Sebastian Kehl drove home the equalizer in the 38th minute to all but seal the Russian’s fate.
Second-half substitute Rondon hit the game clincher in the 73rd minute.
The only negative for Jurgen Klopp’s side is they will be without star striker Robert Lewandowski for Dortmund’s next match after he picked up a yellow card in the 18th minute.
What do you think of Wednesday’s UCL results? Are Manchester United back on track? Is Dortmund ready to take the next step?
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