Mata, Fel­laini give Man Utd League Cup edge

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FOOTBALL -

MANCH­ESTER, Eng­land: Juan Mata and Marouane Fel­laini struck to give Manch­ester United a 2-0 vic­tory over in­jury-rav­aged Hull City in Tues­day’s League Cup semi­fi­nal first leg at Old Traf­ford.

All eyes were on United cap­tain Wayne Rooney, who is chas­ing a record 250th goal for the club, but it was Mata who broke the dead­lock in the 56th minute be­fore sub­sti­tute Fel­laini added a late sec­ond.

It puts Jose Mour­inho’s men in the driv­ing seat ahead of the re­turn leg on Jan. 26, although it was not un­til Fel­laini headed home in the 87th minute that they fi­nally put the game be­yond Hull. Nev­er­the­less, they have now won nine games in suc­ces­sion and look in fine fet­tle ahead of archri­vals Liver­pool’s visit in the Premier League Sun­day.

Hull’s new man­ager Marco Silva, tak­ing charge of his sec­ond game, was able to name only six sub­sti­tutes and lost both Markus Hen­rik­sen and Josh Tymon to in­jury.

Liver­pool, last sea­son’s beaten fi­nal­ists, make a visit to Southamp­ton in the first leg of the sec­ond semi­fi­nal Wed­nes­day.

De­spite Mour­inho mak­ing seven changes to the team that had out­classed Read­ing 4-0 in the FA Cup Satur­day, United picked up where they had left off, pep­per­ing the Hull goal with shots.

Hull goal­keeper Eldin Jakupovic had to pro­duce a one-handed save to thwart Mata in­side two min­utes and mo­ments later Andy Robert­son stopped Rooney ap­ply­ing the fin­ish­ing touch to Mar­cus Rash­ford’s shot.

The pres­ence of David Meyler and Tom Hud­dle­stone in de­fense and the fact there were only six play­ers on the Hull bench told the story of the vis­i­tors’ in­jury prob­lems and there was more to come.

Hen­rik­sen was left clutch­ing his right shoul­der in agony af­ter be­ing knocked over by Paul Pogba and had to go off in the 16th minute, with Abel Her­nan­dez tak­ing his place.

United, miss­ing the ill Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, con­tin­ued to swarm for­ward, Mkhi­taryan twice shoot­ing wide, Rash­ford lash­ing over and Jakupovic shov­el­ing a long-range Pogba ef­fort over the cross­bar.

But Hull, the Premier League’s bot­tom club, be­gan to of­fer an at­tack­ing threat of their own as half­time ap­proached in the club’s first ever League Cup semi­fi­nal match.

Adama Diomande gave United a scare when he headed against the post, only for an off­side flag to then go up, and both Sn­od­grass and Her­nan­dez tested David de Gea be­fore the in­ter­val.

Rooney’s mo­ment of his­tory looked to have ar­rived in the 51st minute when Pogba’s fine, flighted pass set him rac­ing in on goal from the right, but he drilled his shot inches wide of the far post.

In­stead it was Mata who pro­vided the break­through, stab­bing in on the vol­ley at the back post af­ter An­to­nio Va­len­cia’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Mkhi­taryan.

Af­ter Diomande had volleyed over ac­ro­bat­i­cally for Hull, Pogba came within a whisker of dou­bling United’s lead, his curl­ing free-kick clang­ing against the left-hand post and bounc­ing away.

It seemed Hull would es­cape with only a one-goal deficit, but with three min­utes re­main­ing Fel­laini met Mat­teo Darmian’s cross with a loop­ing header that Hud­dle­stone could only help over the line.

Silva’s in­jury woes mounted yet fur­ther in stop­page time when 17year-old left-back Tymon had to limp off. –

Mata’s goal broke the dead­lock in the 56th minute.

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