Manchester United’s hunt for a cup treble continued on Thursday, as they hosted the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals against Sevilla – six-time winners of the competition. Erik Ten Hag’s men would have to dig deep if they wanted to win this clash, as they would be without starman Marcus Rashford who picked up a groin injury in their win against Everton. But, they are aided with the return of powerhouse midfielder Casemiro. Sevilla will look to maintain their phenomenal record in this competition, having won the Europa League on every occasion they’ve made it to this stage.
MUN: De Gea; Malacia, Martinez, Varane, Wan-Bissaka; Sabitzer, Casemiro; Sancho, Fernandes, Antony; Martial
SEV: Bono; Acuna, Marcao, Nianzou, Montiel; Gudelj, Fernando; Torres, Rakitic, Ocampos; Lamela
Old Trafford was buzzing when just 30 seconds into the game, Jadon Sancho tucked in the opener, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside as the Englishman made his run too early. However, the home fans did not have to wait long before their side broke the deadlock. Marcel Sabitzer’s effort deflected and looped over the Sevilla goalkeeper to put United up in the 14th minute.
The Austrian then doubled the lead and his tally on the night, after a brilliant run and pass from Martial put him in behind the defence to tuck it past Bono – giving Manchester United a comfortable advantage in this two-legged tie. United seemed to be making light work of their Spanish opposition, launching numerous attacks on the Sevilla goal. Bono made an athletic save off a Bruno Fernandes effort to keep the score at 2-0.
The first half was feisty with tackles flying all over the place that saw the visitors pick up 3 yellow cards in the opening 40 minutes, including a VAR check for a red card when Erik Lamela seemed to have stomped on Casemiro. The check was completed and a red was not brandished to the former Spurs man – but the controversy wouldn’t end there. Bruno Fernandes was booked for a handball offence despite sliding in and being within five yards of a Rakitic effort from distance. The suspension sees the Portuguese international suspended for the second leg at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium next week.
Nianzou nearly halved the deficit right at the end of the first half, but was saved by De Gea before Varane headed the ball off the line to send Manchester United into the half time break with a two-goal advantage
The second half kicked off with Manchester United introducing Harry Maguire for Raphael Varane – who seemed to have picked up an injury right before the break. The Red Devils seemed to take their foot off the gas for the opening fifteen minutes or so, allowing Sevilla to grow back into the game.
Despite this, it was Antony who came closest to scoring as his effort from inside the box struck the woodwork, keeping the score at 2-0. Substitute Wout Weghorst missed a glorious opportunity in the 80th minute to play in Elanga, who had an open goal in his sights.
For most of the second half though, the game was uneventful and it seemed like the first leg had already been settled. But in the last 15 minutes of the game, the script flipped when Malacia had a moment to forget – falling asleep at the back post allowing Jesus Navas to get a cross in which the Dutchman turned into the back of his own net.
Lisandro Martinez then went down with an injury, holding onto his foot and had to be carried off the pitch – meaning Manchester United had to finish out the game with 10 men as they had already made all 5 substitutions.
David De Gea’s acrobatic save to his right in the 91st minute denied En-Nesyri from equalizing. However, the Sevilla striker would not be denied, as just a minute later his header struck Harry Maguire, diverting the ball back into his own net, levelling up the tie before the return fixture in Spain.
Sevilla now hold the upper-hand in this clash, after an insane series of events saw two own goals from Manchester United within just ten minutes. The Spanish opposition are in pole position to knock out Manchester United – a team they still have never lost to in Europe. The Red Devils will be without Fernandes next week due to suspension, and are awaiting feedback on the injuries to Rashford, Martinez, Shaw, Garnacho and Varane. In the meantime, the focus will shift to Sunday’s Premier League fixture against relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest.