Sports Desk, Oct 27 (EFE).- Manchester United must defeat Real Sociedad by at least two goals in the final match of the Europa League opening stage to win Group E and advance directly to the round-of-16.
The Red Devils – with a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo – won comfortably Thursday against Sheriff Tiraspol, but Sociedad beat Omonoia and lead United by 3 points ahead of the Match Day 6 showdown in San Sebastian.
Another heavyweight, Arsenal, lead Group A by just 2 points over PSV Eindhoven after losing to the Dutch side Thursday.
The Gunners will win the group with a victory against FC Zurich next week, but an Arsenal draw combined with a PSV triumph at Bodo/Glimt would complicate matters.
While group winners are assured of berths in the round-of-16, finishing second means getting through a playoff against a club that finished third in its Champions League group, a contingent that includes the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla.
Real Betis edged Ludogorets 1-0 Thursday to nail down the top spot in Group C, while the Bulgarian side and Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma will face off in Match Day 6 for second place.
SC Freiburg, who ended 1-1 Thursday against Olympiacos, are the Group G winners, leaving Qarabag and Nantes to vie for second place.
Belgium’s Union Saint-Gilloise bested Malmo 2-0 to grab the crown in Group D, where both Union Berlin and Braga have a shot at second place.
Fenerbahce and Rennes, who drew 3-3 Thursday, are level on 11 points in Group B as they prepare to face Dynamo Kyiv and AEK Larnaca, respectively, in their final matches.
Sheriff conceded 75 percent possession to United at Old Trafford and ended the contest with zero shots, but they defended tenaciously and kept the hosts off the scoreboard until Diogo Dalot broke through in the 44th minute.
Marcus Rashford made it 2-0 in the 65th minute and Ronaldo, named to the starting 11 after being left out of the squad for last weekend’s Premier League tie with Chelsea, scored off his own rebound with nine minutes left in regulation.
It was a triumphant return for the Portuguese great, who irked coach Erik ten Hag by refusing to go on as a sub in the Oct. 19 game against Tottenham Hotspur and then leaving the pitch before the final whistle.
A week after beating PSV 1-0 in London in a Match Day 2 contest rescheduled because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Arsenal fell 2-0 to the Dutch squad in Eindhoven.
After having a pair of goals disallowed for offside in the first half, PSV went ahead in the 55th minute thanks to Joey Veerman and Luuk de Jong doubled the advantage eight minutes later. EFE apa/dr