Manchester United travelled to face Sevilla in the first-leg of their Champions League tie in a very interesting fixture. Both sides have been in good form of late and they will feel that they can reach the latter stages of the competition if they can maintain their current level of performance.
The match was an incredibly cagey one as both sides seemed all too aware of how important the first goal would be. Luis Muriel had the first sight of goal in the game, but David de Gea was equal to it, while Romelu Lukaku fired over with a volley inside Sevilla’s box before de Gea was on top form to claw away Muriel’s point-blank header. The second-half was a fragmented one that saw few clear-cut chances, although there was a frantic end as Sandro Ramirez and Marcus Rashford spurned opportunities at the end of the match for both sides.
Manchester United now hold the advantage in the tie with the return to come at Old Trafford. Sevilla face a big test in England, but they will know that any kind of away goal will be precious to them.
A cagey opening
So many of the Champions League games over the last week have brought goals and excitement as the magnitude of the situation has seemed lost on the side in the competition, with most outfits throwing caution to the wind. However, Sevilla’s game against Manchester United seemed to revert to type as the two rarely traded blows in the opening half an hour.
The hosts dominated the opening portion of the match, but United were very comfortable as they allowed the Spanish side to keep the ball. Luis Muriel had a sighter that David de Gea saw late, but the goalkeeper pushed the effort wide before gathering the loose ball.
Alexis Sanchez then saw the first real glimpse of open space as he was played through, but the pacey forward was caught by former-Manchester City winger Jesus Navas, who was playing at right-back, with the veteran player displaying the speed that has made him such a successful forward throughout his career.
Romelu Lukaku then got into the box and was given an opportunity by Sanchez’s perfectly weighted ball, but the Belgian striker smashed his volley over from about 10 yards, with the forward all too aware of how big a chance it was.
Joaquin Correa was giving Antonio Valencia all sorts of trouble on the right-flank as the tricky winger jinked in and out. The majority of Sevilla’s forward play was coming from the youngster, but his final ball let him down all too often, with United let off the hook.
David de Gea shows why he is the best
The Spaniard has been touted as one of the best goalkeepers in the world alongside Manuel Neuer, but, with the German still out injured, the Spaniard has been putting some space between the two best goalkeepers in football.
The game had been largely quiet for both goalkeepers as neither side had threatened. However, as the match ran down towards half-time, Sevilla began to dominate.
A multitude of corners signalled a frantic end to the opening 45 and Muriel, who had recorded the first shot of the game, recorded the last of the half as well. Jesus Navas found space and picked his head up to loft a perfect cross onto the head of the forward who, from six-yards out, powered a header towards the top corner. The Spanish fans behind the goal already seemed to be celebrating, but it was another Spaniard that denied them.
De Gea instinctively fired his right hand towards the ball to divert it over the bar to the disbelief of just about everyone watching. The save was an unbelievable one, but why is anybody surprised by the heroics of the Spaniard anymore?
It was yet another moment that will go down in the long list of incredible saves de Gea has made.
The game becomes very fragmented
The second-half once again saw Sevilla dominating as the Spanish side looked to take advantage of their home leg. However, the match began to descend into an exceptionally fragmented contest.
Jose Mourinho will have clearly arrived in Spain aiming to not lose the game. A goalless draw is not something he would have turned his nose up at, and that is the way the tie seemed to be heading, with United happy to break the match up.
Of course, there were some cynical fouls being committed, but some of the players were guilty of going down far too easily, indeed, Sergio Escudero spent more time on the floor then he did his feet in the opening 20 minutes of the second-half. It was a classic display as the visitors were happy to take a goalless draw, while their hosts seemed more than content to play up to the cynical fouls.
A frantic end to the match gives United the advantage in the tie
The game ended in quite an exciting way as the two sides looked to make the most of any kind of lapses in concentration, and both could have scored late on.
First, Navas was able to slip away from a number of challenges and into the United box before passing the ball across to Sandro Ramirez. The striker took a good touch onto his left foot before bringing it back onto his right. The composure deserved a goal, but Chris Smalling was once again on hand to deflect the effort away.
From the block, United were able to break quickly as they looked to take a lead back to Old Trafford. Paul Pogba was almost able to notch an assist as he did brilliantly to lay the ball off the Marcus Rashford following some quick feet, but the young forward could not direct his effort on goal.
Rashford then saw a free-kick from 30-yards go just wide after connecting with the ball beautifully, and that was that as far as the action was concerned, with the two sides having to settle for a draw. Jose Mourinho looked very pleased at the end of the game, and so he should be. United now hold the advantage with the return of the tie to come at Old Trafford.
Sevilla: Rico 6 – Navas 7.5, Mercado 7, Lenglet 7, Escudero 6 – Banega 7.5 (Pizarro 6), N’Zonzi 7, Vazquez 7 – Sarabia 6, Muriel 6 (Sandro 6), Correa 7.
Unused subs: Carrico, Ben Yedder, Soria, Nolito, Mesa.
Manchester United: de Gea 8.5 – Valencia 6, Lindelof 7, Smalling 7, Young 7 – Herrera (Pogba 6.5), Matic 7, McTominay 7 – Mata 7 (Marital 6), Lukaku 6, Sanchez 6 (Rashford 6)
Unused subs: Romero, Bailly, Pogba, Lingard, Darmian.
Referee: Clement Turpin.
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