Manchester United Champions League report: Kießling on form; Costa with wonder-strike

As United prepare for a new European campaign, we continue our weekly reports detailing their opponents' results and form.

Manchester United begin their latest Champions League campaign on Tuesday, when they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to Old Trafford. David Moyes' side completed their build-up to the game with a comfortable 2-0 home win against Crystal Palace, but what of the German side and United’s other group stage opponents?

Every week we will take a look at how the club’s in United’s Champions League group have fared in their domestic competitions, giving fans a hint of what to expect in the build-up to the matches that will take place in the coming months.

Bayer Leverkusen:

Sami Hyypia’s side put their 2-0 loss to Schalke behind them with a 3-1 win against Wolfsburg on Saturday. Two goals from danger-man Stefan Kießling and one from Sidney Sam were more than enough to see off a visiting side who suffered the 85th-minute dismissal of Luiz Gustavo for a second yellow card.

In an evenly-matched first half, Leverkusen took the lead in the 23rd minute courtesy of a cool finish by Sam past ‘keeper Diego Benaglio. But they were not ahead for long, with the visitors equalising through Ivica Olic 17 minutes later.

A header from Kießling 20 minutes into the second half gave Hyypia’s side a cushion that became even more comfortable following Gustavo’s dismissal. And the German striker pounced again in injury time, warming up nicely for Tuesday’s match against United.

Shakhtar Donetsk:

The Ukrainian side slipped to third in their domestic league after a 3-2 defeat away to Karpaty on Friday. The result was something of a shock, with the home side taking just seven points from eight games prior to kick-off.

Karpaty went ahead after just seven minutes courtesy of Oleksandr Gladkiy, only for Douglas Costa to equalise with a stunning free-kick 16 minutes later. Curling the ball expertly with his left foot, it is one of the best free-kicks you will see this season.

The home side took the lead again from the penalty spot, with Mladen Bartulovic smashing home after Shakhtar’s goalkeeper Anton Kanibolotskiy rushed from his area and fouled Vadim Strashkevich after the ball was knocked past him.

The game looked out of sight when Karpaty went 3-1 up after a free-kick from Bartulovic missed everyone and floated inside the far post. But there was still time for Shakhtar to score the second-best goal of the game, Ismaily smashing a shot into the top corner.

Message for United: beware of long-range shots.

Real Sociedad:

The Spanish side warmed up for their opening match against Shakhtar with a 0-0 draw away to Levante. Former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela hit the crossbar for Sociedad, only for Papakouli Diop to do the same for Levante late on.

Those moments aside, it was a game of little goal-mouth action, certainly in the first half. And given the way they have started the season, United may feel Socieded are more a team to be broken down than feared.

They may have scored only four goals in their opening four games, but they have conceded just three, and United will have to be at their creative best to overcome the Spaniards later in the group stage.

image: © andyjakeman

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