June 6, 2023


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Manchester United bottle two-goal lead late on to draw with Sevilla

3 min read

Manchester United threw away a 2-0 lead in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla at Old Trafford on Thursday night, eventually drawing 2-2.

Marcel Sabitzer had given a vibrant United a dream start to the tie in the first half. But Sevilla struck back late on through two own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire to level things up.

United thought they had made an absolutely storming start when Jadon Sancho was put through on goal and clinically finished with just 27 seconds played, only to see an offside flag go up.

As it happened, the hosts continued that electric early tempo – the combinations between Sancho, Anthony Martial and Antony in those opening exchanges were particularly good – and it wasn’t before they actually took the lead with Sabitzer’s excellent first.

Bruno Fernandes fizzed the ball into the Austrian, whose willingness to be the furthest player forward made the 4-2-3-1 United system at times look more like 4-4-2. He took one touch to control and then lashed a left-footed shot high into the top corner from around 15 yards out.

His second only a few minutes later was the result of another run beyond, found by Martial through the middle, followed by a clinical finished past the onrushing Bono.

Erik Lamela, who once managed to goad Martial into a red card during his Tottenham days, survived a VAR red card check in the closing stages of the first half when he made contact with Casemiro’s leg with his studs. Sevilla then had their best chance of the opening 45 minutes with an Ivan Rakitic free-kick that just missed the target following a harsh Bruno Fernandes handball decision.

United’s early dominance had actually faded by the time the half-time whistle sounded and Sevilla were inches away from getting one back when Raphael Varane headed off the line after David de Gea had parried a powerful header from Tanguy Nianzou up in the air.

Antony threatened a blistering start to the second half when he stepped inside and attempted a curling left-footed shot than didn’t bend quite enough. Sevilla did improve again towards the hour mark, but Antony then went even closer with a similar effort that struck the inside of the post.

In more or less full control, Erik ten Hag was able to make changes in the second half, managing the fitness of the likes of Martial and Sancho and getting more minutes into the legs of the returning Christian Eriksen and a few fringe players. Meanwhile, the ongoing battle between Antony and Sevilla right-back Marcos Acuna added some good-natured spice and entertainment.

United spurned a decent chance for a third in the closing stages as substitute Facundo Pellistri turned the ball into the box for fellow sub Wout Weghorst. Instead of spinning and shooting, the giant Dutchman laid off to Malacia, whose shot was blocked.

Having missed that one, Malacia turned the ball into his own net against the run of play. The Dutchman had been responsible for switching off to the danger behind him and, as Jesus Navas turned the ball back across the box, it struck Malacia and beat a dumbfounded De Gea.

That was with 84 minutes played, with Maguire unwittingly providing Sevilla’s second in stoppage time. Youssef En-Nesyri had already forced De Gea into a brilliant save to keep it at 2-1 and again rose highest to meet the ball in the air. His header was going miles wide until it struck Maguire in the face and ended up nestling in the net, much to the bemusement of the crowd.

Before the equaliser, a further blot for United was the loss of Lisandro Martinez to injury. The centre-back went down clutching his ankle with no one near him and seemed to be on the verge of tears as he was carried from the pitch by Argentina colleagues Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel. United fans and staff alike will be praying it wasn’t his Achilles that caused the problem.

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