Granada, Spain, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- Manchester United have taken a commanding lead in their Europa League quarterfinal clash against Granada, getting goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes in a 2-0 first-leg victory here Thursday night.
The Red Devils created only a handful of scoring opportunities in the behind-closed-doors match at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium but were more opportunistic than their LaLiga opponents.
The start of the first half was evenly contested and unfolded at a leisurely pace without either team posing a serious threat in the opposing box, although the Premier League club’s superiority started to be reflected in their clear edge in time of possession.
While the game began rather uneventfully, the police were forced into action in the sixth minute to apprehend a male streaker who had run onto the field.
The visitors had a chance on a free kick from about 25 meters (27 yards) out in the 19th minute, but Rashford sent his attempt soaring over the crossbar.
The England international, however, was determined to make his presence felt despite an ankle issue and put United ahead in minute 31 when he deftly controlled a superb long pass from Victor Lindelof and then beat Granada net minder Rui Silva.
The Spanish club tried to answer immediately but were unable to convert three good chances: a shot by Venezuelan midfielder Yangel Herrera that nicked the post, an attempt wide of the upright by Roberto Soldado and a long-range volley by Brazilian winger Kenedy that bounced straight at Man United goalie David de Gea.
Kenedy also tested De Gea with a shot at the start of the second half, as Granada continued to seek out the equalizer.
But the home side’s momentum petered out after Portuguese defender Domingos Duarte suffered an injury while committing a foul on Daniel James.
Both clubs exercised caution over the final half hour of the match, with United keen to preserve their lead and the Spanish club wary of surrendering a second away goal.
Rui Silva kept his team within one by denying countryman Fernandes in a one-on-one opportunity in the 83rd minute, but the Portuguese midfielder later won a penalty when he was fouled off the ball in the area by Cameroonian midfielder Yan Eteki just before the start of second-half stoppage time.
Fernandes, who had been quiet most of the game, took the shot from the penalty spot and was fortunate to watch it creep over the line through Silva’s hands.
Thursday’s victory puts Manchester United a step closer to their second title in the Europa League, Europe’s second-biggest annual club competition.
The Red Devils will host the second leg of this quarterfinal tie at Old Trafford on April 15. EFE-EPA