Manchester United are into the quarter-finals of the Europa League after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Thursday night added to the 4-1 aggregate lead from last week at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford’s 27th goal of the season in the second half made the difference on the night.
Knowing the uphill task that lay ahead of them after the first leg, Betis started like a team who genuinely believed they could pull off an aggregate comeback. At the very least, that made it a much more entertaining game over the course of the first hour than most would have been expecting even if any real or incisive quality from either side was in short supply.
Chances were traded in the early stages, with Ayoze Perez seeing a shot blocked after Casemiro gave the ball away. Wout Weghorst was agonisingly close to connecting with a diving header at the other end.
Juanmi went on to fire wide from a great position as the Betis pressure continued as Joaquin’s deflected effort clipped the post. At this stage, United seemed to be on the ropes and were thankful that a lack of clinical finishing was keeping the score in the night level.
But once it appeared the visitors had weathered the opening storm, Betis had their best chance when Juanmi went through. He was greeted by David de Gea rushing off his line to block the shot, with the Betis forward’s rebound header failing to trouble the target.
United went closest of all on the stroke of half-time when the energetic and impressive Facundo Pellistri sent a shot goalward. Weghorst stretched for it but couldn’t reach and the ball rebounded off the post instead. That moment characterised the way Ten Hag’s team would start the second half, piling on their own pressure and Pellistri heavily involved.
Moments before the eventual breakthrough, Rashford forced a top save out of Rui Silva, but there was no stopping his venomous strike soon after. Sensing an opportunity 25 yards from goal, the United star deliberately hit the ball with power with the outside of his right foot to swerve it away from Silva’s reach and into the bottom corner.
By then, Betis needed four goals just to force extra-time and that realisation killed the fighting spirit they had shown earlier on. Jadon Sancho seemed determined to get on the score-sheet without success, but United deserved credit for taking control of the game in the second half.
GK: David de Gea – 7/10 – Made a really good save…
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