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Barcelona and Manchester United Shared a Four-Goal Thriller in the UEFA Europa League Play-Off at Camp Nou

Barcelona and Manchester United Shared a Four-Goal Thriller in the UEFA Europa League Play-Off at Camp Nou

The knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League saw a heavyweight clash between the current leader of the Spanish La Liga Barcelona take on 20-time English league champion Manchester United. Tensions were high for this first-leg fixture as the team from England was determined to erase a pathetic record of only one win in their previous ten meetings against its Spanish counterpart in the better tier of European club football, the UEFA Champions League.

United came into the game at Camp Nou severely wounded, having lost many of its players due to injuries, including Anthony Martial, Antony, Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek, but Erik ten Hag was able to insert Brazilian midfielder Casemiro into the game, after the latter missed the last two Premier League matches due to a three-game suspension in domestic competitions. Xavi, on the other hand, made two changes to his Barcelona side that won the last league fixture, with Jordi Alba and Andreas Christensen coming in for Alejandro Balde and Marcos Alonso.

 

A Quiet First Half Paved Way for an Exciting Second 45 Minutes

Both sides had a rather less intriguing first period, but this led them to turn up the tempo in the second half. The much-anticipated breakthrough finally came at the 50th minute, when the former Chelsea man Alonso headed in Barca’s first goal of the evening. The goal could have been easily prevented by United’s defence, but Alonso’s Spanish teammate David de Gea was not ready to repel the shot away, allowing the home side to take the lead.

The Red Devils came alive right after Barca’s first blood and scored two in quick succession within the space of eight minutes. In-form striker Marcus Rashford was handed a through ball from midfielder Fred inside the penalty box, before the England forward squeezed his shot past Marc-André ter Stegen at near post; It was the 25-year-old player’s 22th goal in all competitions for Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United, matching his best scoring season three years ago. He was also involved in United’s second goal, when he received a short corner pass from Luke Shaw and dribbled the ball into the penalty box to delivery a dangerous cross. Barcelona’s French defender Jules Koundé was unable to adjust his posture and put the ball into the back of his own net.

Rashford had a chance to double United’s lead in the game in the 64th minute, but he was put down by Koundé around the penalty box. The seemingly illegal play was controversially not given a freekick nor a penalty, in which Erik ten Hag was absolutely fury about; The 53-year-old Dutch manager was even given a yellow card as a result. With a famous first win in Camp Nou for Manchester United was on the cards, Barcelona had different ideas 14 minutes before the add-time was awarded, courtesy of Raphinha. The 26-year-old Brazilian winger’s left-footed strike went over everybody and ended in goal, meaning that both sides will not have any advantage going into the second leg at Old Trafford a week from now.

 

Penalties for Both?

Both sides had voiced out their opinion over the referee of the night, Maurizio Mariani from Italy, claiming that they each should had been given a spot kick during the match, with ten Hag saying that “I think the referee had a big influence on this game. It was a foul on Rashy. You can discuss if it was in or outside the box, but then [either way] it is a red card because [Rashford] was one-on-one with the keeper. So it’s a big influence, not just for this game, in this round. It can’t be, referees can’t much such mistakes”. Rashford echoed his manager’s words, as he stressed that it may not be a penalty for Manchester United, but there was certainly contact by the Barcelona defender.

Besides, Xavi also spoke about an incident that saw Fred touched the ball with his hand in the penalty box, complaining that his side was denied a clear penalty by the 40-year-old referee. His response read “For me, the penalty is very clear. I went over to tell the referee that at the end. It was clear. That’s my opinion and I know that won’t change anything. The referee said the ball was too close to [Fred’s] body, but for me it’s not. It’s a clear penalty”.

In the UEFA Champions League, Karim Adeyemi‘s wonderful solo goal helped Borussia Dortmund to beat Chelsea at home. Check out the match details.

Steven Mosier

"Eat, breathe and sleep sports" is the life motto of mine. My professional athlete career ended way earlier than I thought, but the passion remains till the present, which is why I am here writing you all the sports news you crave! Also, I am a huge fan of the Premier League as well the NBA.

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