Man United battle into semis

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- Agence France-Presse, MANCHESTER

Apr 22, 2017-

Manchester United reached the Europa League semi-finals for the first time after beating Anderlecht 2-1 on Thursday, but at the cost of a potentially serious injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The talismanic Swede, 35, had to go off after damaging his right knee late in the game at Old Trafford and may not play again this season, while United also lost centre-back Marcos Rojo. United prevailed courtesy of an extra-time strike by Marcus Rashford, which secured a 3-2 aggregate success, after Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener was cancelled out by Sofiane Hanni.

“I don’t think they are easy injuries, but I prefer to wait until all the tests are done and then speak. But the news is fairly negative I think,” United manager Jose Mourinho told BT Sport. 

The scrappy, sapping victory means Mourinho’s side remain on course to claim the only major trophy missing from the club’s collection. But the injuries to Ibrahimovic and Rojo could prove costly, particularly with United having re-energised their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League by brilliantly beating Chelsea.

Ibrahimovic’s injury occurred late in stoppage time, his right knee bending the wrong way as he landed following an aerial challenge in the Anderlecht box, leaving him grimacing on the deck. The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has scored 28 goals this season, was able to hobble down the tunnel, aided by medical staff.

It cast a shadow over United’s evening, but Rashford’s superb 107th-minute strike ensured they took up a place in the last four. He notched the decisive goal by gathering Marouane Fellaini’s knock-down, making space with a sharp turn and firing in a low shot with his left foot.

United first went ahead in the 10th minute after a finely measured pass from Paul Pogba found Rashford wide on the left. Rashford’s cross was blocked, but the ball came back to him and he squared it for Mkhitaryan, who drilled into the bottom-left corner. United were on top and it took flying one-handed saves from visiting goalkeeper Ruben to repel a header from Pogba and a Jesse Lingard curler.

But United then lost Rojo—hurt as he tried in vain to halt Frank Acheampong, with Daley Blind taking his place—and Anderlecht levelled the tie in the 32nd minute. Youri Tielemans’s deflected shot came back off the crossbar and after a moment’s confusion, Hanni put away the rebound. United’s chances became more clear-cut in the second half.

Elsewhere, Ajax reached their first European semi-finals in 20 years with a 4-3 aggregate win over Schalke after   time. Leon Goretzka and Guido Burgstaller scored in the space of three second-half minutes to cancel out Ajax’s advantage from the first leg. Daniel Caligiuri hit Schalke’s third after 101 minutes thanks to Sead Kolasinac’s fine cross. But Nick Viergever quickly levelled on aggregate before Amin Younes hit a last-minute winner for the Dutch, who finished the game with 10 men after Joel Veltman had been red-carded in the 80th minute.

Celta Vigo reached a European semi-final for the first time after a 1-1 draw at Genk gave them a 4-3 aggregate win over the Belgians. In Istanbul, Lyon beat Besiktas 7-6 on penalties after the Turkish side had won 2-1 on the night to level the tie at 3-3.

Results

Genk    1-1    Celta (Celta win 4-3 on agg)

Besiktas    2-1    Lyon (Lyon win 7-6 on pen after 3-3 on agg)

Schalke    3-2    Ajax (Ajax win 4-3 on agg after extra-time)

Man United    2-1    Anderlecht (Man United win 3-2 on agg after extra-time)

SF fixtures

1st legs: May 4

Ajax vs Lyon 

Celta vs Man United 

2nd legs: May 11

Lyon vs Ajax 

Man United vs Celta 

Final: May 24, Stockholm

Published: 22-04-2017 08:59

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