Sports Desk, Apr 29 (EFE).- Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani each scored twice Thursday to lead Manchester United 6-2 over AS Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men look to have at least one foot in the final, set for May 26 in Gdansk, after rebounding from a 1-2 deficit at half time.
Eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage and with no realistic hope of overtaking Manchester City for the Premier League title, United’s only option for a trophy this season is the Europa League, a competition they won in 2017.
Fernandes got the Red Devils off the best possible start at Old Trafford, chipping the ball over advancing goalkeeper Pau Lopez in the 9th minute.
The goal culminated a beautiful play that began with a pass from Paul Pogba to Cavani, who relayed to the Portugal international.
But the visitors drew level in the 15th minute, as Lorenzo Pellegrini converted from the spot after Pogba inadvertently touched the ball with his arm in the area.
Pogba forced a heroic save from Lopez in the 25th minute and the keeper landed hard on his shoulder. The Spaniard’s desire to continue was overridden by the medical staff and he came off.
Replacing Lopez in the Roma goal was 37-year-old Antonio Mirante, who had appeared in a total of 29 games since joining the club in 2018.
Edin Dzeko, who was frequently a thorn in United’s side during his tenure with “noisy neighbors” Manchester City, gave Roma the lead in the 33rd minute with an assist from Pellegrini.
The Italian squad preserved the edge until the break, surviving a threat from Cavani in first-half stoppage time. Yet Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had plenty of cause for concern after seeing Lopez, Jordan Veretout and Leonardo Spinazzola leave the pitch hurt.
The United comeback got under way just three minutes into the second half, as Cavani scored on the counter with an assist from Fernandes.
A blunder by Mirante set up the Uruguayan’s second goal. The Roma keeper stopped Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s shot, only to leave the ball in the path of Cavani, who put United ahead 3-2 in the 64th minute.
Five minutes later, former United man Chris Smalling hit Cavani’s leg on the follow-through after poking the ball away from the striker and the referee awarded a penalty.
Fernandes blasted the kick beyond Mirante to give the hosts a two-goal advantage.
With 15 minutes left in regulation, Pogba made up for his earlier mistake, heading-in a Fernandes corner to make it 5-2.
Late sub Mason Greenwood added a sixth goal in the 86th minute as Cavani picked up his second assist of the night. EFE msg/dr