Thursday 22 February 2018

Match report: Sevilla 0-0 United

United were repeatedly indebted to David de Gea's heroics as the Reds secured a hard fought away draw in Andalucia, albeit without the precious commodity of an away goal. The trip to Ramon Sanchez Pijuan always looked a daunting assignment for the team, and so it proved, but there's no doubt that we'll be the happier of the two sides ahead of the return tie at Old Trafford on 13th March. Sevilla have lost only once at home since November 2016, so the Reds will be content with a job well done.

De Gea's stunning one-handed stop from Luis Muriel proved a contender for save of the season, and he also denied Joaquin Correa and Steven N'Zonzi as despite their pressure and territory, Sevilla were unable to take advantage. 

United - playing our first Champions League knockout tie for four years - were restricted to efforts on the counter attack. Romelu Lukaku volleyed wide early on, and substitute Marcus Rashford went close with two efforts in quick succession in the closing stages. Once more, it was the absence of Paul Pogba from the starting line-up that dominated the pre-match build up, but the Frenchman was pressed into service earlier than anyone expected when he replaced the injured Ander Herrera inside 20 minutes. It looked as though Jose would have to use two subs before the break, when Alexis Sanchez was hacked down by N'Zonzi, but the Chilean escaped serious injury with N'Zonzi deservedly booked.

Scott McTominay, impressive throughout, went close from distance but Sevilla edged the opening half and the hosts soon burst into life with DDG forced to underline his status as the best keeper on the planet. He twice denied Correa - with a deflected effort and a 20 yarder - before remarkable reflexes kept out point blank range headers from N'Zonzi and Muriel. The latter prompted the Colombian striker to congratulate De Gea as he went down the tunnel at the break. Sevilla began the second half in the ascendancy, but failed to trouble De Gea again as United impressively held firm. Centre-back Clement Lenglet fired weakly at DDG, but the Reds began to exert control as the tie opened up.

Pogba shot wide as Jose went in search of the pivotal away goal with introduction of the pace and trickery of Anthony Martial and the fit-again Marcus Rashford. Lukaku then looked to have completed the ultimate smash-and-grab raid when he slammed home an excellent finish on the turn, but the goal was ruled out after a handball from the Belgian in the build-up. Rashford then flashed a shot into the side netting and went close from a set-piece, but the goal never came which means the sides head back to OT with the last 16 tie still on a knife edge.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: David de Gea. Who else. Magnificent and the world's best keeper by a mile.

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