Man United defeated by Astana 2 – 1 Europa League. With the visitors having already qualified for the last 32, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spared his senior players the 6,000-mile round-trip to Kazakhstan, took a squad packed with academy graduates and chose an XI with an average age of 22 years and 26 days – the youngest fielded in European competition.
Manchester United’s youngsters were taught a tough lesson as Astana came from a goal down to inflict the English side’s first defeat in Europa League Group L. Jesse Lingard, the eldest of the outfield players at 26 and captain for the night, gave United a 10th-minute lead when his deflected low strike found Nenad Eric’s bottom left the corner. It ended a goal drought dating back to January.
Reaction from the match at the Astana Arena
Tahith Chong should have made it 2-0 after the break, but astonishingly scooped over from six yards with an empty net in front of him. Seconds later United conceded their first goal of the group stage when Dmitriy Shomko’s deflected drive beat the reach of Lee Grant.
Six-time Kazakh champions delivered another blow shortly afterwards when Antonio Rukavina’s cross went in off the body of Di’Shon Bernard.
United responded positively with Eric producing two fantastic saves to deny Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood, but they failed to prevent the Kazakh champions from recording their first group win of the season. The Premier League side host Dutch club AZ Alkmaar in their final match on 12 December.
Chong missed chance pivotal
The match was played on a 4G pitch and under the roof of the Astana Arena, to protect the players from temperatures of -15 in the Kazakh capital. United lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against a side at the bottom of Group L and, who earlier in the month, secured their sixth successive Kazakh title.
Perhaps those factors influenced Astana’s lackadaisical first-half display as United’s kids enjoyed an easy ride. Lingard was the best attacker on the pitch during that period, and aside from his goal, he hit a 20-yard shot that flew a couple of yards wide followed by another that looped narrowly over Eric’s bar.
Astana improved markedly after the break as they began to exert more pressure, but Chong will rue not subduing them once more with one of the misses of the competition. That seemed to spark the Kazakh side into life and they seized the initiative with two quick goals.
Ironically, United enjoyed their best attacking spell of the match after going behind, with Gomes’ stunning free-kick clawed away by Eric who then stuck out an arm to block Greenwood’s effort. Because of the calibre of opposition, Solskjaer might not have learned too much more of his youngsters, although he will have been heartened by their response to going behind.
Astana end run of losses – stats
- United have lost a European match in which they scored the first goal for the first time in 25 such games (W20 D4) since losing 1-2 at FC Midtjylland in the Europa League last 32 in February 2016.
- This result ended a run of 15 Europa League games without defeat for United (W10 D5), and was their first in the competition since going down 1-2 at Fenerbahce in the 2016-17 group stage.
- Astana ended a run of six consecutive defeats in the Europa League, scoring more goals tonight (two) than they did in each of those six previous matches in the competition combined (one).
- Shomko’s goal for Astana was the first United conceded in the Europa League in exactly eight-and-a-half hours of play since Facundo Roncaglia’s strike against them for Celta Vigo in the 2017 semi-final.
- United have scored three own goals in their last 10 matches across all European competitions, this after having not scored one in 61 such games beforehand.
Source – BBC News
In other news – AKA blasts Julius Malema & Burna Boy on new Remix
AKA has let his music do the talking, calling out politicians and his rivals for their involvement in the Burna Boy fiasco. Costa Titch’s Nkalakatha Remix, featuring Baddest star and Riky Rick, dropped this week.
AKA dropped a fire verse on the track, taking shots like he was at a shooting range. “I am the king of the jungle, Julius Caesar. Cancel my people, cancel your visa. Nobody go enter. South Aah is the kingdom, the Garden of Eden, and I’m at the centre, the public protector … my middle finger stands tall for the flag.” continue reading