Barcelona welcomed Manchester United to Camp Nou this evening in the first of their 2 legs in the Europa League. The matchup provided a thrilling contest that ended Barcelona 2-2 Man Utd and left fans watering at the mouth at the prospect of the next leg at Old Trafford.
Under Erik ten Hag’s leadership, United have looked like a different team entirely, and it showed again tonight. Both teams got off to a bright start, exchanging attacks from the get go with some narrow misses on both parts.
United seemed to have more of the chances in the opening minutes of this high paced game, but by the time they were 15 minutes in were matched in energy and tenacity by Barcelona. Robert Lewandowski, who was playing his first ever match against Manchester United tonight, very nearly converted just 8 minutes in, being denied by David de Gea.
Xavi’s men were just starting to take control of the match when Wan-Bissaka supplied Jordan Sancho for what was arguably the best chance of the half. Sancho fumbled the opportunity, sending a bobbling strike past the far post of the home side’s goal.
The Red Devils had another chance fall to Wout Weghorst just two minutes later that was the main contender to Sancho’s as chance of the half. The Dutchman broke away from Barca’s defenders to find himself one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen – who managed to get a foot to the United striker’s attempt on goal and divert it wide.
From that point, the travelling side began to take ramp up the pace, with chances for Casemiro, Varane and Rashford coming in quick succession. United themselves were then saved by their goalkeeper when Wan Bissaka carelessly gives the ball away to Jordi Alba just minutes after Rashford’s strike went wide.
Alba’s would be the last big chance of the half, with the only other notable event being Barcelona’s starlet Pedri going down from a suspected hamstring injury. He was replaced with Sergi Roberto.
Viewers could barely wait for the second half of this fixture, and it did not disappoint. Neither side seemed to suffer any less of appetite for the game, and it was Barcelona who would see the first chance after the break fall to Raphina.
The Brazilian sends huge roars through the Nou Camp as he narrowly misses past the far post with a zipping strike just 3 minutes after the match restarted.
United themselves sent the ball immediately back down to the other end of the pitch and were denied a great opportunity by Barcelona, who in ping-pong fashion sent the ball back down the pitch themselves and get exactly what they were looking for.
Barca’s initial counter attack is out behind for a corner kick. The ball is whipped in right back to the far post, where former Chelsea man Marcus Alonso meets it. There is no challenge on the Spaniard, who nods the ball downwards at De Gea’s near post, bouncing past the keeper’s feet and into the back of the net for 1-0!
The noise from the home supporters at Camp Nou started to escalate following their side taking the lead, but it didn’t last long for the Catalans.
Just 4 minutes after conceding to Alonso, United bring themselves level. Marcus Rashford nets his 14th goal in his last 16 matches, scoring from an incredibly tight angle in alomost Henry-like form to do so. Fred’s nicely placed pass into the box found United’s man of the moment, who took one touch before delivering a powerful strike past Ter Stegen.
Manchester United were visibly charged up by Rashford’s equalizer, and it took them just another 5 minutes before turning the tables on the home side.
A corner kick by Luke Shaw picked out Rashford, who engaged in an attempted one-two with Bruno Fernandes inside the box. Fernandes’ return flick to Rashford caught Barcelona man Jules Kounde by surprise as it struck his chest that deflected into his own goal.
A handful of minutes later and Marcus Rashford made a bursting run, reaching the penalty box before being brought down. The challenge looked as if it may have been a penalty, something which Erik ten Hag seemed sure about.
The United chief received a yellow card for his sideline protest at the incident at the 65 minute mark.
At 68 minutes, Xavi makes 3 changes for Barcelona, leaving them with just the 1 sub remaining. Ansu Fati, Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde replaced Marcus Alonso, Jordi Alba and Franck Kessie.
The changes seem to work for Barca, who were starting to look well and truly on the back foot against an inspired Manchester United.
Raphina, who was Barcelona’s most inspired looking man on the pitch for most of the game, strikes what looked to be a cross into the United box.
Lewandowski, along with United’s defenders, rushed to meet the ball and get a vital touch towards goal. At first, this seemed to be what the Polish striker achieved, with the ball bouncing its way past a dumbstruck David de Gea.
Upon closer inspection however, it was clear that Lewandoski did not make any contact on the ball, making Barcelona’s all important equalizer Raphina’s.
The remaining 15 minutes or so of the match were as electric as the proceeding 75, with Raphina almost taking Barcelona a goal up after a fumbled clearance from Luke Shaw.
Other than a Barcelona appeal for a penalty, which was overturned, and Casemiro inexplicably blasting the ball at his own post when he had the chance to clear it, the match rounded itself out without too much incident.
All in all, a thrilling match up, as expected from two such clubs. We can’t wait for the next round at Old Trafford next Thursday!