In the 76th minute, Barça equalized thanks to Raphinha‘s fizzed cross that went through the far post. Late in the game, Casemiro kicked the ball against his own goal post, but there was no winner in what will be remembered as a modern Europa League classic.
Both teams had strong starts to the game, with Robert Lewandowski of Barça creating the opening opportunity less than 10 minutes in when he surged over Luke Shaw and angrily fired at goal with his left foot. David de Gea‘s powerful hands were required to parry the ball to safety.
As an opportunistic volley from Barça went over, Pedri might have felt that he should have performed a little bit better given his high standards.
Although United was beginning to play sloppily, Aaron Wan-Bissaka raced forward down the right and drew back to Jadon Sancho, whose effort was deflected but lacked conviction. This gave United a decent opening. Upon making a run from behind, Wout Weghorst, playing in a deeper “number 10” role, forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make a spectacular stop.
Soon after stopping Weghorst, German goalkeeper Ter Stegen was needed. After winning the ball, Sancho sent it to Marcus Rashford, who outran Marcos Alonso but had his curled shot blocked by a springing Ter Stegen.
A combination of Wan-averting Bissaka’s challenge and De Gea prevented Jordi Alba from profiting from a careless moment in possession towards the half.
As Pedri collapsed holding his knee shortly before halftime, Barça was dealt a devastating blow. The young Spaniard was taken off and replaced by Sergi Roberto because he was unable to continue.
Starting the second half, there was no slowing down. Raphinha’s hard shot whizzed past the goal before Sancho missed a golden opportunity by throwing wide after Ronald Araujo botched a clearance, and he was punished for it.
The fact that the goal came from a straightforward corner almost came as a surprise given the frantic tempo of the first half. As Fred was unable to stop Marcos Alonso’s effort at the back post, the ball was headed beyond De Gea at the near post.
Between Alonso’s goal and Manchester United’s response, there would be just three minutes. In order to make up for his lack of spatial awareness, Fred slipped a flawless pass to Rashford, who took it close to the byline and fired a shot that beat Ter Stegen once more at the near post.
Man United reversed the tables and scored again to grab the lead just before the hour mark after falling down 1-0 in the 50th minute. From a brief corner, the lightning-quick Rashford raced past Raphinha and slammed into the six-yard box, where Jules Kounde’s deflection allowed United to score.
Midway through the second half, the game’s speed did slow down, but Barcelona took another hit in the middle when Gavi received a booking for retching Fred during a counterattack. The following leg will see him suspended.
Yet just as some semblance of peace appeared to be taking hold, Barça responded. Man United recklessly lost possession, as Raphinha’s nimble ball missed the men gathered in the area and snuck past De Gea.
Under pressure, Casemiro hit his own post, and De Gea had to stop Barça’s late rally. This resulted in an exciting matchup at Old Trafford for the return leg the following week.
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