Sports Desk, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- Paul Pogba scored a goal early in the second half to lift Manchester United to a 1-0 away win Thursday over AC Milan and a 2-1 victory on aggregate over that Italian club in Europa League round-of-16 action.
With their clutch play on the road, the Premier League side have secured a berth in the quarterfinals of Europe’s second-biggest annual club competition and kept alive their bid for a second title.
Sidelined for six weeks with a thigh injury, Pogba’s reappearance – and first Europa League action this season – could not have been more timely.
Taking the field for Marcus Rashford after the intermission, the French midfielder almost immediately provided the scoring punch the visitors had been lacking up front.
The lone goal of the contest came on a play in which AC Milan’s defense managed to stymie one shot attempt by Daniel James before the ball ended up at the feet of Pogba, who cleverly faked a cross before hammering the ball home just inside the near post at a sharp angle in the 49th minute.
The goal came as a huge relief for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, who had given up a late away goal in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last Thursday and needed to score at San Siro to avoid crashing out of the competition.
The threat of elimination loomed even larger after a first half in which AC Milan escaped some early trouble before starting to put the Red Devils on their heels.
The sense of urgency after Pogba’s goal shifted to the home side, whose head coach, Stefano Pioli, responded by inserting veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 25 minutes remaining.
The 39-year-old former Man United player made his presence felt late, nearly equalizing on a header that visiting net minder Dean Henderson tipped over the crossbar with time winding down.
Although AC Milan’s pressure continued until the final whistle, the visitors held on for the victory and will next compete in the two-leg quarterfinals in April against an opponent to be determined on Friday. EFE-EPA