Friday, September 21, 2018

Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla: Shock at Old Trafford as United crash out of the Champions League

Dan Steeden in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 13 Mar 2018

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Manchester United welcomed Sevilla to Old Trafford for the second leg round of 16 Champions League tie between the two sides. The first leg in Spain ended in a 0-0 stalemate, meaning that either side could easily progress with a positive result in this fixture. The Red Devils knew that they needed at least one goal to guarantee progression, while the visitors had a slight advantage thanks to the prospect of an away goal victory.

A cagey start to a high-stakes game

With so much at stake for both sides it was perhaps unsurprising that the game started in a cagey manner with neither team wanting to make a mistake early on. Manchester United looked the better side in the early exchanges however and they soon began to put some pressure on the Sevilla goal. Romelu Lukaku had the first decent chance of the game after some good link-up play with Jesse Lingard, but the striker’s curling shot flew wildly wide of the far post. There were few clear-cut chances in the first 10 minutes however and a number of midfield battles emerged that looked as if they would go a long way towards deciding the game.

The tempo of the game was remarkable slow considering the circumstances and the occasion and neither side seemed able to create any sort of penetration behind the other’s defence. Sevilla did grow into the game as the minutes ticked on however and they peppered the United box with crosses, none of which came to anything. The Old Trafford crowd seemed restless as their team looked content soaking up the pressure from the Spanish side, and the tie teetered on a knife-edge with nobody taking hold of the game.

Neither side can find an opening

While Romelu Lukaku cut an isolated figure up top at times, the Belgian international did well with his hold-up play in general and slowly began to bring the likes of Marcus Rashford into the game. It was Sevilla who had the next big chance however and it fell to Luis Muriel. The striker picked up the ball just outside the box, driving down the left channel and dragging a shot back across goal that trickled just wide of the post. The squandered opportunity seemed to spark Manchester United into life however and they finally started to attack the visitors’ final third, lifting the Old Trafford crowd and giving themselves some confidence.

In terms of manufacturing good chances the home side still struggled however and they seemed to be playing very conservatively, not utilising the pace of Rashford and Alexis Sanchez. Eventually it was Marouane Fellaini who went closest for Jose Mourinho’s side, slamming a shot into the palms of Sergio Rico from the left hand side of the box, but hardly troubling the Spaniard. It was difficult to tell what Jose Mourinho had instructed his players to do in the first half, but they went into the break still stuck in a 0-0 stalemate.

The tempo picks up but the stalemate continues

It was Sevilla who came out for the second half looking more fired up to grab the goal that could win the tie and they almost found it through Joaquin Correa. The midfielder turned Chris Smalling brilliantly in the box and looked for all the world as if he was about to curl the ball past De Gea, only for Eric Bailly to get back and make a superb last-ditch challenge to deny the visitors an opener. Up the other end Jesse Lingard went even closer, drilling a shot from a tight angle back across Rico, who somehow got down to make the stop and keep his side in the game. The two quick chances lifted the crowd and the tempo of the play after the break was much closer to what one might expect from a tightly contested Champions League tie.

The game soon became much more of an end-to-end affair with both sides squandering a number of half chances. Luis Muriel went closest, coming within a few inches of converting a Gabriel Mercado cross. Correa in particular looked bright for the visitors and he almost curled in a shot from the edge of the box on the hour mark, sending another alarm bell ringing through the Manchester United defence. For all the chances however there was a distinct lack of quality up top for both sides and Sevilla in particular couldn’t make the most of a number of promising positions.

Sevilla’s double sucker punch sinks Manchester United 

In the end it took a tactical substitution from Vincenzo Montella to finally break the deadlock and it was Wissam Ben Yedder who grabbed the crucial goal. A smart pass from Pablo Sarabia split the Manchester United defence and put the French striker through, allowing him to turn past Smalling and curl a beautiful shot past De Gea and into the corner of the net. It was a stunning moment for the visitors and one that put them in pole position to progress to the quarter-finals.

That was not the end of Sevilla’s patch of pressure however and they almost instantaneously doubled their lead, all but ensuring their place in the next round. This time it was a corner that opened United up as Correa flicked the ball on to Ben Yedder at the back post, and the forward headed up and over De Gea, who got a fingertip to the ball but couldn’t quite keep it out. The celebrations from the entire away bench showed just how important the goal was, and Mourinho’s men needed a miracle to get back into the tie.

With a few minutes to go United received a lifeline as Lukaku slammed in a shot from close range following a corner, and the final minutes became a backs-to-the-wall defensive effort from the visitors. Despite the home side’s best efforts it was Sevilla who came out on top, holding on for their first ever win in England in the Champions League. 

Final Thoughts

This was a shock defeat for Manchester United, especially with Jose Mourinho at the helm as the veteran coach is usually so good at grinding out results in games such as these. In truth the Red Devils never looked particularly threatening in an attacking sense and it cost them as their historically strong defence couldn’t hold out against Sevilla’s limited pressure. The style of play will likely come under a lot of criticism after this game, and perhaps rightly so.

For Sevilla this was their first ever win in England and the first time they have ever reached the quarter-final stage of the Champions League. They utterly deserved the win, despite not playing brilliantly, as they were far better than a diabolically bad Manchester United side. Just how far the Spanish side will go remains to be seen, but for now they can celebrate this historic victory.

Match Report 

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia (Mata, 77’), Bailly, Smalling, Young, Fellaini (Pogba, 60’), Matic, Lingard (Martial, 77’), Sanchez, Rashford, Lukaku

Sevilla: Rico, Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero, N’Zonzi, Banega, Sarabia, Vazquez (Pizarro, 87’), Correa (Geis, 89’), Muriel (Ben Yedder, 72’) 

Goals: Ben Yedder (0-1, 74’), Ben Yedder (0-2, 78’), Lukaku (1-2, 84’) 

Referee: Danny Makkelie 

Yellow Cards: Banega (5’), Ben Yedder (79’), Correa (88’), Sarabia (90’), Rashford (90+3’)

Red Cards: None 

Player Ratings 

Manchester United: De Gea 6, Valencia 6 (Mata n/a), Bailly 7, Smalling 5.5, Young 6, Fellaini 6 (Pogba), Matic 6, Lingard 5.5 (Martial n/a), Sanchez 5, Rashford 6, Lukaku 7.5

Sevilla: Rico 7, Mercado 7, Kjaer 7, Lenglet 8, Escudero 6, N’Zonzi 6, Banega 7, Sarabia 7, Vazquez 6 (Pizarro n/a), Correa 7 (Geis n/a), Muriel 5.5 (Ben Yedder 9)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Steeden


Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.

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