Europa League: United progresses with 2-1 win over Barca
MANCHESTER: Antony stepped off the bench to send Manchester United through to the Europa League last-16 as the English heavyweight came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 in Thursday’s play-off second leg and progress 4-3 on aggregate.
After a frantic start at Old Trafford, Barcelona was awarded an 18th-minute penalty as Bruno Fernandes was adjudged to have fouled defender Alejandro Balde. Robert Lewandowski stepped up and just squeezed the spot-kick home. United came out in the second half looking like a different team and levelled through Fred, with the Brazilian steering home Fernandes’s pass two minutes after the break.
A superb save from goalkeeper David De Gea kept out an effort from defender Jules Kounde, a stop that proved crucial as Antony arrowed a superb finish into the bottom corner 17 minutes from time. With the win, United, bidding to win its first major trophy since 2017, remains in four competitions this season.
“The belief of the team is always there,” Fernandes told BT Sport. United started well with captain Fernandes denied by a superb Marc-Andre ter Stegen save after being picked out by Casemiro. Then came the moment when Old Trafford united in incredulity as referee Clement Turpin pointed to the spot, a decision Fernandes could not believe. De Gea got a hand to Lewandowski’s penalty, but could not claw it out.
The Polish striker has now scored 25 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions for the LaLiga leader this season, the 12th successive campaign in which he has netted 25 or more goals at club level. United did not create a chance of note for the remainder of the first half, but whatever Dutch manager Erik ten Hag said at the break had an immediate effect as Fernandes found Fred to level.
The save from De Gea to tip Kounde’s header over was world-class and the finish from Antony was right out of the top drawer. The host survived nervy late moments, but saw out a first win over Barcelona since 2008 to end a five-game winless run against the Spanish powerhouse.
RESULT: Manchester United 2 (Fred 47, Antony 73) bt Barcelona 1 (R Lewandowski 18(P)) (United progressed 4-3 on aggregate)
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