Anthony Martial scored an away goal to secure a 1-1 draw in the first leg of Manchester United’s Europa League round of 32 tie against Club Brugge. Also Read - Manchester City Ease Back To Winning Ways With 2-0 Win Over West Ham United
The Frenchman took advantage of a Brugge mistake to slot home nine minutes before the interval, cancelling out Emmanuel Dennis’s opener. Also Read - Manchester United Beat Chelsea 2-0, Keep Champions League Hopes Alive
Martial’s goal came against the run of play, with the Reds on the ropes for much of the first half, but United rallied after the equaliser, with our no.9 striking a post with our best opportunity to secure a lead to take back to Old Trafford.
With less than 72 hours between Monday’s win at Stamford Bridge and this tie, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the opportunity to rotate his side.
Out went David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Fred, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James, perhaps with Sunday’s Premier League match at home to Watford in mind.
Those six were replaced by Sergio Romero, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira and, making his 200th appearance for the Reds, Jesse Lingard.
In the type of wet and windy conditions which have plagued United back home in recent weeks, the hosts had the first real opening.
Dennis beat Harry Maguire and then Romero to the ball on the right of the United box before squaring, but thankfully Lindelof, playing his 100th Reds game, was on hand to prevent the incoming Maxim de Cuyper from scoring.
VAR – not in use during the knockout stages of the Europa League – went back to check for a potential penalty for Romero’s attempt to challenge Dennis, but decided it wasn’t clear and obvious.
The lively Dennis was showing signs of his raw pace and ability and, after Pereira had seen his low shot well saved by Simon Mignolet, the Nigerian opened the scoring on 15 minutes.
Mignolet’s long punt forward caught Diogo Dalot and Brandon Williams unawares as Brugge’s onrushing no.42 found space between the pair before deftly lobbing Romero to send the home fans wild.
Buoyed by the strike, the Belgian league leaders then had United under the cosh during a spell of concerted pressure which culminated with Mats Rits’s shot drifting narrowly wide of the target.
The Reds were struggling to deal with Brugge’s lively young forwards and United had Romero to thank for diverting Dennis’s shot wide with his body, at the end of an opening half an hour to forget.
No matter how you perform, though, away goals are the key currency in Europe and Martial reacted quickest to capitalise on a mistake from the hosts to put United back in the tie on 36 minutes.
De Cuyper’s throw-in had too much pace on it for Mechele, and the Frenchman outpaced Brugge’s no.44 before slotting the ball calmly past Mignolet and into the bottom right-hand corner.
The goal, Martial’s 14th of the season, clearly gave the Reds confidence and United ended the first half in the ascendancy, with Brandon Williams spurning a glorious opportunity when shooting high and wide from an advanced position on the left and Martial rattling the post with a fine effort.
Alexandre Lacazette scored a precious late winner as we edged a cagey first-leg encounter in Athens.
In a closely-fought affair, the Frenchman tucked home from close range after good work by first Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, then Bukayo Saka inside the box, to silence the intimidating home crowd.
It was something of a smash and grab raid after we had absorbed pressure for much of the game.
In fact Olympiacos nearly opened the scoring inside just two minutes, but Bernd Leno was alert enough to turn Mathieu Valbunea’s goal-bound volley away from danger.
The Greek fans hardly needed lifting, but their fast start only raised the volume levels further inside the sold-out Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
Giorgos Masouras then headed over from close range – though he looked to be offside – before we finally began to come into the game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sent in a dangerous low cross which was just out of Alexandre Lacazette’s reach, before the Frenchman shot wide after great build-up play involving Joe Willock and Gabriel Martinelli.
Overall though it was a cagey first-half, and it continued in that vein after the break, with neither side able to create too many chances.
Leno made a couple of smart stops, but when the home defence began to tire, we sprung into gear to break the deadlock in the final 15 minutes.
Goalscorer Lacazette could have doubled the advantage shortly afterwards, when a rapid counter-attack ended with our number 9 seeing his shot saved.
Sokratis thumped a late header against the bar but Mikel Arteta will be more than happy to take a one-goal advantage back to London.