17 February 2017
Manchester United took a healthy first leg advantage in the Europa League round of 32 clash against Saint-Etienne on Thursday.
The Red Devils secured a comfortable 3 – 0 win over the French side, courtesy of a hat-trick by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in front of home fans at Old Trafford.
Having reached a 20 goal mark this season, Ibrahimovic netted through a lucky free kick, a fortunate tap-in and from the spot to defeat Etienne in a clash that saw Paul Pogba face his elder brother, Florentin while their mother, Yeo and other family members watched from the stands.
The visitors had the first opportunity in just two minutes of play through a defensive howler by Eric Bailly. Monnet-Paquet received a loose pass from Bailly and fired a cross towards Hamouma, who strode to the box and got the better of United’s goalkeeper, Romero who came off his line to narrow the angle.
United’s first chance came in the 8th minute but Fellaini’s attempt was ruled offside. Fellaini latched onto a pass from Mata who was caught offside after he headed a long ball from Valencia.
United took the lead in the 15th minute through Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s deflected free kick. The Swede’s low shot free kick clanked off the legs of Etienne’s Pajot to send Goalkeeper, Ruffier in the opposite direction.
Mata missed an opportunity to double the lead before 25 mins as the visitors heaped some pressure on United, coming close severally in the first half.
The second half saw a much improved United. The substitution of Marourane Fellaiini for Jesse Lingard at the resumption of the half made a little difference.
Ibrahimovic’s 48th minute header into the net was disallowed after he was found offside. He also missed a couple of chances later on. Paul Pogba’s header from a Daley Blind free kick hit the bar, an attempt that would have doubled the lead for United.
With 20 minutes left, Marcus Rashford came on for Juan Mata. The substitution made a huge difference five minute later as the young forward ran past two defenders into Etienne’s box and fired the ball into the centre which was deflected by Ruffier and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was fortunate to tap-in to an empty net.
Ibrahimovic was fouled in the box three minutes from regulation time and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty. He slammed the penalty into the bottom left corner, sending Ruffier the wrong direction to grab his first Manchester United Hat-trick.
Zlatan has now registered 17 career hat-tricks – 13 for clubs and 4 for Sweden. He has had a hand in 18 goals in 17 appearances at Old Trafford this season (12 goals, six assists).
England’s other representative, Tottenham Hotspurs slumped to a shock 1 – 0 defeat against a lowly rated Gent. Jeremy Perbet 59th minute strike was enough for the Belgian top division side to claim a famous victory against Spurs.
It was the seventh consecutive first leg knockout match that Tottenham has failed to win in the Europa League (drawing three, losing four).
The Belgian Jinx remains unbroken for Spurs as their winless run of European games in Belgium continues (two draws, three defeats).
Edin Dzeko grabbed the second hat-trick of the night as AS Roma spanked Villareal 4 – 0 at the Estadio de la Cerámica, Spain. The former Manchester City striker scored his three goals in the last 25 minutes to take his European total to eight goals in the current campaign.
Russian side, FC Krasnodar also defeated Fenerbahçe 1 – 0 in another shocking result of the night. Sweden midfielder, Viktor Claesson scored for Krasnodar in just four minutes of play leaving Nigerian striker, Emmanuel Emenike’s Turkish side at least 86 minutes to respond, but they didn’t.
In other results, Olympic Lyon of France secured a 4 – 1 away win in Netherlands against AZ Alkmaar. Memphis Depay, who joined Lyon from Manchester United last month could not feature as he was cup tied.
Shakhtar Donetsk shocked Celta Vigo at home in Spain. Argentine forward, Gustavo Blanco scored for Shakhtar on the 25th minute.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s late goal in the 90th minute made it 3 – 0 for Schalke against Greek side, PAOK Thessaloniki FC.
Anderlecht of Belgium defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 2 – 0 while Legia Warszawa and Ajax settled for a barren draw.
The return leg ties will be played next Thursday.
Manchester United 3 – 0 Saint-Etienne
Gent 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
Celta Vigo 0 – 1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Borussia Moenchengladbach 0 – 1 Fiorentina
PAOK Thessaloniki FC 0 – 3 Schalke 04
FC Krasnodar 1 – 0 Fenerbahce
AZ Alkmaar 1 – 4 Lyon
Astra Giurgiu 2 – 2 Genk
FC Rostov 4 – 0 Sparta Prague
Ludogorets Razgrad 1 – 2 FC Koebenhavn
Olympiacos 0 – 0 Osmanlispor FK
Anderlecht 2 – 0 Zenit St. Petersburg
Athletic Bilbao 3 – 2 APOEL Nicosia
Hapoel Beer Sheva 1 – 3 Besiktas
Legia Warszawa 0 – 0 Ajax
Villarreal 0 – 4 Roma
Author: Timilehin Boyinde
Oluwatimilehin Boyinde is a research writer and a social media strategist. A public affairs analyst, he writes about history, politics, sports, life matters and technology. He is passionate about happenings in Local and international political arenas. He is an avid Manchester United fan and an unapologetic Nigerian.