Saturday 27 June 2020

Match report: Norwich City 1-2 Man Utd (a.e.t)

Manchester United finally overcame valiant ten man Norwich as a late Harry Maguire winner sent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side into the FA Cup semi finals.
With the tie deep into extra-time and heading for the lottery of a shootout, skipper Maguire pounced on an Odion Ighalo knockdown to bundle the ball home and seal a spot in the last four.
United were made to work hard for the win, having been pegged back by Todd Cantwell after Ighalo had put the Reds in front.
With Norwich in the ascendancy and looking favourites to snatch a winner, Timm Klose was sent off in the 89th minute having hauled down the lively Ighalo when clean through. That paved the way for an additional 30 minutes in which the Reds laid siege to the bottom club's goal, eventually prevailing despite Tim Krul's heroics between the sticks.

Coming as it did only three days after an impressive victory over Sheffield United and two days before a tricky trip to Brighton, changes were inevitable and there were eight in total. Solskjaer named a side virtually identical to the one that beat Derby in the last round, with Maguire ahead of Victor Lindelof the only alteration to that XI. That meant starts for Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Ighalo, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly and Sergio Romero with several squad players given a run out.

Without the pace and penetration of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, United lacked the guile to get behind a surprisingly solid Norwich defence, marshalled well by the impressive midfield work of Alex Tettey.
The returning and much malinged Lingard would go on to endure another poor night, fading into anonymity, but he started well and had the first chance after seven minutes.
Near build up saw Luke Shaw work the ball inside to the well-placed wideman, but his shot lacked accuracy and was deflected behind for a corner.
Krul saved under pressure from Ighalo from the resultant corner, and Bruno Fernandes - quiet by his usual metronomic standards - chanced his arm from distance.
Max Aarons went close for Norwich and Kenny McLean was also off target before Eric Bailly headed over at the other end.

Maguire blocked superbly to deny Lukas Rupp, and came to United's rescue again in the same passage of play, this time to thwart Emi Buendia as the Canaries pressed for a shock lead.

They would be made to rue those misses, though, as the Reds moved in front six minutes after the interval. Shaw burst down the left wing and picked out Mata whom in turn poked the ball to Ighalo to untidily stab the ball in.
It wasn't pretty, but underlined Ighalo's growing worth to this team with his fifth goal in as many cup starts for the club, a useful option to have and one to allow for rotation.
Krul saved well from Lingard and Fernandes flashed a shot wide, before Norwich came close at the other end through Aarons, as Maguire did well to clear a driven cross/shot from the buccaneering right-back.

The next opening came for Norwich as Buendia's free-kick found Tettey and he flicked on for Ben Godfrey, only for the ball to strike the Norwich man on the line and bounce away to safety.
Then came Cantwell's excellent goal although there could be question marks over Sergio Romero - the effort was well hit and flew into the corner - but our cup keeper perhaps could have done better.
It was the first goal United had conceded in this season's FA Cup and sent up a frantic finale.

Substitute Mason Greenwood dragged narrowly off target, Romero punched clear from Aarons and Brandon Williams kept United alive with a stunning, game saving challenge to deny Onel Hernandez. Buendia went close with a 25-yarder and Teemu Pukki flashed across goal in a late flurry from our struggling divisional rivals.
Despite that, the momentum would change a minute from time when Jonathan Moss was left with no option but to dismiss Klose after he hauled down Ighalo, who had spun in on goal after a lovely flick from Fernandes.

United laid siege to Norwich during extra-time, going close through Shaw, Greenwood and Rashford, with Krul saving well to keep out first Paul Pogba and then a Maguire header.
Aarons blocked from Rashford and Fernandes again had a pop from range, but the ten men from East Anglia continued to dig in and hold firm.
Krul flicked a Fernandes effort round the post, but - with penalties looming - the relentless pressure told and United finally found a way.
Pogba and Ighalo were involved as the pair linked up to find substitute Anthony Martial. The ball came loose but only as far as Maguire and he turned in the loose ball to seal a result that was much harder work than it should have been.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Harry Maguire.

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