Barça and Manchester United back to back in the Europa League
The game: 2-2 It was the first confrontation in the Europa League between Barça and…
The game: 2-2
It was the first confrontation in the Europa League between Barça and Manchester United, two European giants gathered on a ground annexed to the Champions League. This opposition worthy of a final, between two teams in form, offered a spectacle which promises an incandescent return match, in a week, at Old Trafford.
But this first fight was split into two very different sequences, with a second period much more exciting than the first, during which the two teams neutralized each other. The fault largely lies with Ter Stegen, whose two decisive parades against Weghorst (28th) and Rashford (34th) helped to freeze the score. At the other end of the field, De Gea intervened against strikes from Lewandowski (9th) and Jordi Alba (37th).
A few appetizers, basically, before a second half much more consistent, even hair-raising, worthy of the Champions League. Barcelona, who had lost Pedri to injury just before the break (41st), opened hostilities with a victorious header from Alonso, on a corner from Raphinha (1-0, 50th). Far from launching Barça on the rails of victory, this goal preceded a stunning sequence, in two stages: Rashford deceived Ter Stegen with a hard shot at the near post, in an ant hole (1-1, 53rd ), six minutes before dropping Raphinha down the right side and crossing. His ball, slightly touched by Bruno Fernandes, landed on Koundé, who scored against his side (1-2, 59th).
Already at fault on the equalizer, for having covered Rashford during his call in depth, the French international concentrated the defensive misfortunes of his team, renowned for its solidity in this area before the meeting. Less fair than usual, embarrassed by a Man United challenging them eye to eye, not afraid to press, Barça feared to largely compromise their chances of qualification.
It took a curious action, a cross from Raphinha, which neither Lewandowski nor Varane touched, to offer the equalizer to Xavi’s men (2-2, 76th). It had already been a few minutes since the match had gone crazy, and the end of the match did not calm down this first leg play-off match, with in particular a save from De Gea on a strike from Fati (87th), a few seconds after being saved by its post. Barcelona finished very strong, but not strong enough to knock out their opponent with a final uppercut.
The player: Rashford did everything in front
His subtle strike, nicely deflected by Ter Stegen in the first period (34th), had set the tone for his decisive performance. Scorer by cleverly placing his shot between the first post and Ter Stegen (53rd), then at the origin of the second Mancunian goal through his center (59th), the English international striker confirmed his preponderance: he now totals twenty-two goals in all competitions this season.
Barça are undefeated for 17 games in all competitions. His last defeat dates back to October 26, against Bayern (0-3).