Ten Hag hails Rashford after ANOTHER match-winning masterclass
MARCUS RASHFORD blasted in his 27th goal of an incredible season to fire Manchester United past Real Betis and into the quarterfinals of the europa League.
United were leading 4-1 from the first leg at Old Trafford, and after a spell of home pressure in Seville, Rashford earned a 1-0 win on the night with swerving drive into the bottom corner.
‘Rashy had some chances before and he missed some, but he kept his belief,’ said United manager erik Ten Hag. ‘He kept trying and got his reward.’
AS RAIN tumbled down and one corner of the Emirates was ignited in green smoke and white firecrackers, the television cameras panned to a young Arsenal supporter.
He stood motionless: hood up, mobile phone in hand, mouth wide open. It was an image of shock and awe and grudging admiration that encapsulated the mood around this place in the moments after Pedro Goncalves collected possession on halfway, looked up, and floated a shot towards the Arsenal goal.
It was shortly after the hour mark and, just briefly, time had stood still. The ball travelled 45 yards while Aaron Ramsdale sprinted and scrambled towards his own goal. Then both goalkeeper and ball crumpled into the net and this tie was alive again.
Last week’s first leg, which ended 2-2, had been a bonkers game. But nothing this barmy.
Until then, Arsenal had been on course for the Europa League quarter-finals thanks to Granit Xhaka’s first-half goal — his first since October.
But this turned into a long and painful night. Arsenal had already lost two players to injury. William Saliba appeared to hurt his back, Takehiro Tomiyasu seemed to hurt his knee.
That was not what Arsenal needed at the start of four pivotal days, which could end with them eight points clear atop the Premier League.
They could have done without extra-time, too. Alas, that was where this tie headed after 90 minutes. In truth, it could have been worse.
Sporting had a couple of glorious opportunities to win it in regular time and secure a first victory on English soil since their 3-2 win at Middlesbrough all the way back in 2004-05.
But over 180 minutes, neither of these sides had shown much desire to shut the door behind them.
It was February 2020 the last time Arsenal supporters piled in here for a European knockout game. That night, Olympiacos silenced this slice of north London. Not long after, grounds were
shut and the world began to look very different.
Those Arsenal fans who returned last night are still adjusting to this club’s new normal. A team transformed over the past three years. In personnel — just three players remain from that matchday squad against Olympiacos. And in terms of ambition.
Arteta wants Arsenal to make this a scene of iconic European nights. They should have plenty of practice over the coming years. This one began with a light show and, helpfully, a last-16 tie finely poised after last week’s draw in Lisbon.
It also marked the homecoming of Gabriel Jesus following injury. Unfortunately, by the time the striker began to dazzle in Sporting territory, Arsenal were two men down. Tomiyasu was taken off inside 10 minutes following a nasty fall, before Saliba followed him down the tunnel. The centre back, who has started every Premier League game this season, was substituted as Arsenal celebrated the opening goal.
It was scored by Xhaka, who followed in after Gabriel Martinelli’s effort was saved. The chance, though, was created by Jorginho’s piercing through-ball which put Martinelli in behind.
That eased some of the tension round here but Sporting would not lie down. They had probably shaded a bitty start, with Francisco Trincao curling just wide, and they had chances after falling behind, too.
Marcus Edwards, once of Tottenham, was allowed to race on to a hoof upfield before seeing his shot blocked. Jeremiah St Juste drove through the heart of Arsenal, only to fire over. Then, just before halftime, Manuel Ugarte saw a shot deflected narrowly wide.
Just as in Portugal, Arsenal lacked control. But just like last week, opportunities weren’t a problem.
Jesus showed flashes of his brilliant best, including one mazy run that ended with a sharp onehanded save from Antonio Adan.
Alas his return ended after 45 minutes, with Leandro trossard the third substitute — sorry, impacter — sent on by Arteta. two minutes later, another Arsenal body hit the floor. this time, it was Gabriel nursing some pain. Fortunately for the home side, the defender ran it off.
Unfortunately for Arteta, Sporting would not stay down either.
But nothing Ruben Amorim’s side had created brought about the strike from Goncalves that sent this tie towards extra time.
Arsenal will wonder how, in the space of a few seconds, they went from controlling possession on halfway to surrendering their lead. the Sporting supporters, who had begun the march towards this ground nearly five hours earlier, didn’t care one jot.
It was a goal to make this trip worthwhile. No wonder they sent for the pyrotechnics.
Arteta sensed danger and sent on both thomas Partey and Bukayo Saka from the bench.
Alas, for a while, Sporting had their tails up. Ramsdale watched a header skim the top of his bar. then, a few minutes later, the goalkeeper watched Edwards’ shot fly into his face.
It was a hefty blow but a vital intervention. Imagine if the former Spurs schoolboy had the final say?
As the end of normal time approached, this ground began to leak. Supporters had to clear chunks of seats as mini-waterfalls drenched the first few rows.
Fortunately, their side held more firm and by the end of 90 minutes, Arsenal were pushing for a winner.
ARSENAL (4-3-3): Ramsdale 6; Tomiyasu 5 (White 9min, 6), Saliba 6 (Holding 21, 6), Gabriel 6, Zinchenko 6; Vieira 6.5, Jorginho 7 (Partey 65, 6), Xhaka 7; Nelson 6 (Saka 65, 6), Jesus 7 (Trossard 46, 6), Martinelli 6.5. Scorer: Xhaka 19.
Booked: Xhaka, Vieira, Holding.
Manager: Mikel Arteta 5.
SPORTING (3-4-3): Adan 7; St Juste 7.5, Diomande 6, Inacio 6; Esgaio 6, GONCALVES 7.5, Ugarte 6.5, Reis 6; Edwards 7, Paulinho 6.5 (Chermiti 90), Trincao 7.
Scorer: Goncalves 62.
Manager: Ruben Amorim 7.5.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain) 7.5 Attendance: Not provided.