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Man United thrashes Roma, Arsenal go down to Villarreal

April 30, 2021 9:01 am
Edinson Cavani [Source: Manchester United/Twitter]

Manchester United came from behind to take a major step towards sealing a place in next month’s Europa League final beating Roma 6-2.

Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani both scored twice in their in their semi-final clash.

Fernandes gave United a perfect start when he swept home Cavani’s first-time lay-off.

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Paul Pogba’s handball allowed Lorenzo Pellegrini to equalise before the Roma skipper’s pass allowed former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko to score his sixth goal in five Old Trafford appearances to turn the tie on its head by half-time.

But United rallied after the break. Cavani levelled with a superb first-time effort before tapping the hosts back in front when substitute keeper Antonio Mirante pushed Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s angled shot into his path.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were in no mood to let their advantage slip a second time, although it took a fortunate penalty for what seemed to be an innocuous Chris Smalling tackle on Cavani to give Fernandes the chance to add a fourth from the spot.

Pogba then powered home a precise header from Fernandes’ cross before Greenwood ran on to Cavani’s pass and drove home United’s sixth, making them the first side to score six goals in a major European semi-final since Real Madrid in the 1964 European Cup.

In another first leg semi-final, Nicolas Pepe’s second-half penalty gave Arsenal renewed hope of reaching the Europa League final despite a semi-final first-leg loss at Villarreal as both sides finished with 10 men.

With the Gunners trailing 2-0 and a man down following Dani Ceballos’ sending off, Pepe stepped up and fired home a precious away goal from the spot after Bukayo Saka had been tripped in the box.

It means Mikel Arteta’s side go into next Thursday’s second leg with genuine hope of reaching a second Europa League final in three seasons and with the potential of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

They appeared to be sinking without trace when Manu Trigueros fired in an early low, angled drive for the home side before Raul Albiol slammed home at the back post following Gerard Moreno’s flick-on from a corner.

Ceballos’ red card with 30 minutes left, courtesy of a second booking for standing on the boot of Daniel Parejo, looked to have sealed their fate.

But Bernd Leno produced two good saves to keep the home side at bay before Pepe – playing as a false nine – had his say.

Villarreal may still have fancied their chances of scoring again, but this was hampered when they too were reduced to 10 men, as Etienne Capoue shown a second yellow for a late tackle on Saka.

The ‘Yellow Submarine’, managed by ex-Gunners Unai Emery, will go into the second leg on top, but facing the prospect that just one unanswered concession will send them out.

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