Manchester United on Thursday bounced back from a historic thrashing by Liverpool to beat Real Betis Balompie 4-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round-of-16 tie, while a 2-2 draw away to Sporting gave Arsenal work to do to reach the quarter-finals.
United equaled their heaviest-ever defeat and worst since 1931 in losing 7-0 at Anfield on Sunday. Erik ten Hag responded by naming the same starting lineup and was rewarded with a return to form.
“You see how a team reacts after a setback,” Ten Hag said. “This is not the first time this season, I think you see five or six times we can reset and bounce back. This team has character, so a big compliment to the team.”
Marcus Rashford smashed United into an early lead with his 26th goal of the season, but Betis leveled against the run of play when Ayoze Perez fired into the far corner.
It was two of United’s most fiercely criticized stars who made the difference after halftime.
Antony curled a brilliant shot into the top corner, before Bruno Fernandes, who Ten Hag named again as captain, headed in Luke Shaw’s corner.
“Bruno was brilliant today,” Ten Hag said. “He led the team from the first minute by his game in possession, making the rhythm of the game and scored a goal, so I am happy.”
Wout Weghorst then netted just his second goal in 15 appearances for United by pouncing from close range six minutes from time.
English Premier League leaders Arsenal were forced to come from behind to salvage a draw in the Portuguese capital.
Despite going for a first league title in 19 years, Mikel Arteta named a strong side and William Saliba headed the visitors into the lead.
Sporting equalized shortly after in near identical fashion, with Goncalo Inacio heading home Marcus Edwards’ corner.
Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Edwards then had a role in Sporting’s second as Paulinho reacted quickest to finish inside the penalty area.
Arsenal were level just after the hour mark, though, when Granit Xhaka’s cross deflected off the unfortunate Hidemasa Morita and rebounded into his own net.
“Considering you concede two goals away from home and still escape with a draw, you have to take some positives, but we gave them too much hope by giving the ball away in our own half too many times,” Arsenal manager Arteta said.
Juventus take a narrow lead to Germany next week after the in-form Angel di Maria scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over SC Freiburg.
Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma are also on course for the last eight after goals from Stephan El Shaarawy and Marash Kumbulla saw off Real Sociedad 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Six-time winners Sevilla might be fighting a relegation battle in La Liga, but are always a threat in the Europa League and take a 2-0 first-leg lead over Fenerbahce to Istanbul next week thanks to goals from Joan Jordan and Erik Lamela.
The game of the night saw Bundesliga surprise package Union Berlin snatch a 3-3 draw against Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, despite having trailed three times.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen beat Ferencvaros 2-0 at home, while Shakhtar Donetsk and Feyenoord played out a 1-1 draw.
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