14 April 2017 | UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg | Constant Vanden Stock Stadium | Attendance: TBC | Scorers: Mkhitaryan 36; Dendoncker 86
Anderlecht’s home clash with Manchester United at the atmospheric Constant Vanden Stock Stadium on Thursday was something else! United hold the edge in the tie after the Armenian star, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s crucial away goal in the first half (photo: below). It took quite a while but the Belgian side equalized in the second half before 4 minutes to extra time. United will be hopeful of making home advantage count and reaching the semi-finals in next Thursday’s second leg at Old Trafford (kick-off 20:05 BST).
The truth is that United holds the advantage against Anderlecht in the Europa League quarter-finals after securing a 1-1 draw in Thursday’s first leg in Brussels. Mkhitaryan’s crucial away goal 10 minutes before the break at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, netting from an acute angle put United ahead (photo above: left) but Leander Dendoncker’s powerful header 4 minutes from time means the tie is still alive ahead of the return game at Old Trafford.
It was the away goal by Mkhitaryan that United had been looking for, and one which ultimately separated the sides going into the break.
Possession: Anderlecht 31% United 69%
Shots: Anderlecht 2 United 9
Shots on target: Anderlecht 0 United 3
Corners: Anderlecht 3 United 2
As the second half started, the indomitable Belgians looked to respond and won a free-kick on the edge of the United box, but Nicolae Stanciu fired over the bar. In what was a strong start to the half for the hosts, Anderlecht came even closer to equalising on 50 minutes, when Bruno’s effort was hacked away by Valencia before crossing the line, and the defender followed up by blocking the rebound.
United might have doubled the advantage through Frenchman Paul Pogba after the midfielder found himself through on goal, and it was a missed chance United were made to regret as, at the other end, Dendoncker’s bullet header flew into the net, to leave the tie in the balance and Jose Mourinho sad.
Photo: Paul Pogba (left) held the midfield but the Belgians held their own
Possession: Anderlecht 36% United 64%
Shots: Anderlecht 12 United 16
Shots on target: Anderlecht 1 United 7
Corners: Anderlecht 6 United 3
Manchester United were left to rue missed chances as Anderlecht salvaged a late draw to change the complexion of their Europa League quarter-final tie. Leander Dendoncker got in front of Matteo Darmian to head a late equalizer with the Belgian side’s first effort on goal four minutes from time.
Until that moment United had subdued Anderlecht, and deservedly led when Mkhitaryan tapped in from a tight angle after Marcus Rashford’s shot was spilled in the first half.
Photo: Anderlecht’s Leander Dendoncker’s goal sends the tie back to Old Trafford level
Anderlecht: Ruben, Appiah, Mbodji, Nuytinck, Obradovic, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Stanciu (Hanni 65), Bruno (Chipciu 58), Kiese-Thelin (Teodorczyk 75), Acheampong.
Subs not used: Boeckx, Deschacht, Spajic, Capel.
Manchester United: Romero, Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian, Carrick, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, (Fosu-Mensah 90), Lingard (Martial 63), Rashford (Fellaini 75), Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: De Gea, Blind, Shaw, Herrera.
Booked: Mkhitaryan, Carrick, Fosu-Mensah.
Jose Mourinho was disappointed that United could not turn their dominance into victory in Thursday night’s Europa League draw against the Belgian side.
It will be recalled that Mkhitaryan’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Leander Dendoncker late on as United drew 1-1 leaving the tie open heading into next week’s return at Old Trafford.
The boss Jose Mourinho spoke post-match:
Positive result but could have been better
“The result is positive – to play at home with an advantage, to start the game with an advantage, it is a good result but I think the result should be much better. We can only blame ourselves because we had an easy game to play in the second half and we didn’t play in attack with that instinct . . . “
Need to kill off matches
“We have to kill matches. We had chances, control, but we don’t score goals; we risk. There was lots of space to kill, good chances. Lots of chances that we don’t get because of a bad touch, sloppy touch, a flick, bad decisions in the last third. There was a team with good organisation at the back, but one mistake and we were punished . . . “
Mourinho’s poor English
“In my poor English I cannot find a better word [than sloppy]. You have to play more seriously. Put the performance of two or three of our attacking players together and you squeeze not much juice out of it. Rashford, Lingard, Ibrahimovic, Martial. They were very similar. But the people behind: very solid, very focused. The defenders did the serious work but the people who had to kill the game didn’t. We start the game at Old Trafford in front, but we had all the conditions to kill the game . . . “
Strong defensive performance
“It was a strong performance from the team, the defensive part. Lingard and Rashford, they did defensively what we asked them to do; they covered some space but when the team is broken on the counter-attack, we cannot lose so many balls. We didn’t miss so many chances; it was about half-chances and chances where the space is there and the time is there but these moments, sometimes we play two-touch not one-touch and lose the ball. Another time one-touch not two-touch . . . We have chances but don’t score enough goals.”
Well, the boss may be sad but United have a busy month that continues on Easter Sunday as Manchester United return to action with a tough game against Premier League leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Up Man U!