Barcelona’s fightback played a spoilsport, ruining striker Marcus Rashford’s second-half performance to salvage a 2-2 draw against Manchester United at Camp Nou in their UEFA Europa League knockout round first-leg match on Thursday.
The striker arrived at Camp Nou with praises from manager Erik Ten Hag ringing in his ears and justified his boss’s words by helping his side level scores with Barca two minutes after Marcos Alonso had helped the home side gain a 50-minute lead.
Just two minutes later, Rashford smashed a shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to equal the scores. Just seven minutes later, Rashford helped his side complete a change of fortunes as he skipped to the byline, drilled a tempting cross along the six-yard box that Jules Kounde sent into his own goal. United was leading 2-1 in 59th minute.
Manchester United could have won another famous game at Camp Nou, but a strike from Raphinha in the 76th minutes crashed these hopes. His inswing cross found its way inside David de Gea’s far post to set up an exciting second-leg match at Old Trafford next week.
United manager ten Hag was impressed with his team’s performance against La Liga leaders, but admitted that it was a missed opportunity to take a lead ahead of leg two.
“If you face No 1 of Spain in an away game and you are that dominant, you can see it as a positive,” said the manager as quoted by Sky Sports.
“We should have won this game so we have steps to go. Two good teams on a high level and I think it was really enjoyable to watch. I think everyone agrees it was a really high-performance level from both teams. I was really happy with our performance against a strong team.”
“The criticism is to be more clinical and finish chances. That’s what we did not do. We created many chances – more than you can expect, actually – and there is a little bit of disappointment that we did not score them. We should have scored a minimum of four goals tonight,” concluded ten Hag.
Xavi also congratulated his counterpart ten Hag for his work at Manchester United and said that he is helping bring the club back to its best.
“It was a really tough game with a lot of intensity, passion, rhythm. We have to be proud because we competed really well until the end.
“We could have won with the last two chances, but we played today against a top team in Europe. I think Manchester [United] is coming back and today they showed their best version and now we have to compete well in Old Trafford. I think both teams are more or less in the same moment, in the same position. I said to Ten Hag ‘congratulations’ because he is doing very well.”
“They are Manchester United so this could be a final, semi-final, quarter-final of the Champions League. But now we are in Europa League and it was a very good performance from both teams,” concluded Xavi.
Manchester United will now return to Premier League, with Leicester visiting Old Trafford on Sunday. After that on Thursday, Manchester United and Barca will battle it out in their second-leg match on Thursday.
Barca will return to La Liga action on Sunday to host Cadiz. (ANI)