Barcelona and Manchester United delivered a thrilling encounter worthy of the Champions League elite with an action-packed 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday at the Camp Nou.
Marcus Rashford appeared to have inspired a memorable Man United win as he scored and then forced an own goal from Jules Kounde within nine minutes after falling behind through Marcos Alonso’s header from a corner early in the second half.
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But the home side were strong in the closing stages, leveling the tie thanks to a wicked cross from Raphinha that hit the back of the net. There could have been more late drama too, as Casemiro turned the ball against his own post in the closing minutes of a breathless second half.
In a tie between two heavyweights looking to reclaim their place in the continent’s top flight, there was plenty of evidence that both are on the right track.
After turbulence on the pitch and being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage, Barcelona showed why they are eight points clear at the top of LaLiga and poised to win their first league title in four years.
Man United, meanwhile, continue to look rejuvenated under Erik ten Hag. And they were led again by Rashford, who lived up to pre-match praise from Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez. The England striker has now scored 22 goals of the season in all competitions, his all-time best tally, and has netted 13 goals since the World Cup, three more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
It all means the tie ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford in a week’s time is tempting. However, Barcelona may have to face the second leg without their two young midfield stars after Gavi received a yellow card and suspension and Pedri had to be substituted late in the first half with an injury.Marcus Rashford shoots during the Manchester United draw at Barcelona. David Ramos/Getty Images
While Barcelona, as expected, had most of the possession in the first half, it was the visitors who had the best chance.
Wout Weghorst, playing an unfamiliar role in the advanced midfield, was played well behind Barca’s defense by Bruno Fernandes in the 30th minute but was never sure of his finish and fired straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Just minutes later, United’s in-form top scorer Rashford had an opening of his own, firing an impromptu shot with the outside of his right boot, but Ter Stegen was again up with a save. On the other hand, David de Gea made saves early and late in the first half from Robert Lewandowski and Jordi Alba.
The second of those also saw a strong appeal from Barcelona over a rejected penalty after Aaron Wan-Bissaka, whose error had allowed the chance in the first place, brought Alba down with a slide challenge after the ball went.
The action escalated to a new level in the second half. Jadon Sancho missed another golden opportunity for United just before Barcelona opened the scoring in the 50th minute. Former Chelsea defender Alonso got up at the back post to head the ball down and in after Raphinha’s delivery.
Rashford equalized three minutes later after a counterattack down the right flank, delivering an intelligent low finish between ter Stegen and the near post.
The in-form Rashford also created United’s second, sprinting into the box from a short corner and delivering a low cross into a crowded six-yard area where Kounde’s ball deflected into goal.
United players and Ten Hag complained heavily after what appeared to be a clear foul on Rashford by last-man Kounde, although the contact may have started just outside the box.
However, Barcelona swung deep to equalize and mistakes from United’s defense gifted the ball on the edge of their box to Raphinha, whose cross De Gea missed and went into the net.
Barca made a late push for the win and could have scored when a close shot from Ansu Fati was rejected and Casemiro’s miss went off the bar.
Information from Portal was used in this report.