Barcelona, Man United draw 2-2 in Europa League clash

Sports Desk, Feb 16 (EFE).- FC Barcelona came from behind Thursday to secure a 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the first leg of their playoff for a spot in the Europa League knockout stage.

Both the LaLiga leaders and the third-place team in the Premier League were in good form coming into the contest and the 90,000-plus at Camp Nou were treated to a display of quality football.

More of the same can be expected when the sides meet next week at Old Trafford to decide the tie, though Barcelona will be without Pedri – injured late in the first half – and Gavi, who earned a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards, for the second leg in Manchester.

The hosts got the first shot on target Thursday, a Robert Lewandowski effort saved by David De Gea in the 9th minute, while Marcos Alonso fired a free kick over the cross-bar on another chance for the Blaugrana four minutes later.

Lewandowski’s header in the 19th minute also had too much altitude and the next few opportunities would belong to United.

Jadon Sancho hit the post in the 27th before Marc-Andre ter Stegen made three fine stops in the space of six minutes to thwart Wout Weghorst, Casemiro and Marcus Rashford.

Jordi Alba forced a save from De Gea in the 38th minute, moments before the sequence that led to Sergi Roberto’s entry as a replacement for the injured Pedri.

The teams went to the dressing rooms knotted 0-0, but Barcelona’s Marcos Alonso shattered the deadlock five minutes into the second half, beating De Gea with a header off Raphinha’s corner.

The former Chelsea man pointed to the sky, dedicating the goal to his recently deceased father, as his teammates came over to embrace him.

But the joy lasted only until the 52nd minute, when Rashford equalized for United.

De Gea dealt with a shot from distance by Raphinha and the Red Devils won a corner. The ball ended up with Rashford and his strike bounced off defender Jules Kounde and into the net to give the visitors a 2-1 edge.

Hoping to steady this ship, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez made a triple change in the 67th minute, deploying Andreas Christensen, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde.

The hosts gradually regained the initiative and pulled level with a goal by Raphinha in the 79th.

The frantic final 15 minutes saw chances at both ends, though the Blaugrana looked the more dangerous. Balde fired over the bar and Fati tested De Gea before sending a potential winner just wide in the third minute of stoppage time. EFE


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