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Friday, December 2, 2022

Rashford and Martial net as Man Utd beat 

NICOSIA, CYPRUS – OCTOBER 06: Anthony Martial of Manchester United celebrates with teammates after scoring their team’s second goal during the UEFA Europa League group E match between Omonia Nikosia and Manchester United at GSP Stadium on October 06, 2022

Image credit: Getty Images

An inspired substitute performance from Marcus Rashford earned Manchester United a nervy Europa League win over Omonia Nicosia.

The Cypriot side took a shock lead into half time through Karim Ansarifard.

United manager Erik Ten Hag introduced Rashford at the interval and he scored eight minutes later before setting up fellow sub Antony Martial to finish.

Rashford made it 3-1 late on, before Nikolas Panayiotou pulled one back on an unexpectedly edgy night for United.

Following United’s chastening derby defeat at the weekend, Ten Hag made three changes with the headline being the return of Cristiano Ronaldo in place of Rashford up front.

However it was ultimately the English forward who saved his side from an embarrassing defeat, while Ronaldo spurned several chances to score his 700th club career goal.

Up against the Red Devils was an Omonia line-up which featured few star names – and with just one win in their past 26 European games – but managed by former Celtic boss Neil Lennon who had clearly emphasised effort and discipline.

The visitors made all the running in the first half an hour – nine shots and around 80 per cent possession – but the Cypriots stood up well and took their chance when it came.

United’s clearest chance came on 17 minutes when Antony was played through and tried to square the ball for Bruno Fernandes to score an open goal with keeper Fabiano committed. However, the £87m Brazilian winger played the ball too far behind his team-mate.

Fernandes hit the crossbar with a chipped effort a minute later, and shortly after Fabiano brilliantly denied a 25-yard effort from Antony before Iran striker Ansarifard struck.

Untied overcommitted at a corner, allowing a three-on-one Omonia breakaway with striker Bruno carrying the ball nearly 50 yards. The Brazilian played in Ansarifard, and the former Nottingham Forest striker superbly finished into the roof of the net.

The boisterous Nicosia crowd celebrated wildly and United were visibly rattled, leading to Ten Hag making a double half-time change with Rashford and Luke Shaw replacing Tyrell Malacia and the ineffective Jadon Sancho.

It paid off eight minutes after the restart – Rashford was released by a raking ball down the left by Fernandes, Ronaldo’s run drew the defence and the England international had time and space to curl beyond Fabiano.

Ten Hag then introduced Martial after the hour, and he combined with Rashford to put his side ahead.

Martial’s second touch of the game began a flicked one-two with Rashford, the third saw him finish with power a shot past Fabiano at the near post.

Ronaldo meanwhile continued to struggle, his clearest opening coming when Diogo Dalot pulled the ball back to him eight yards out with Fabiano stranded, but somehow he contrived to hit the post.

Instead Ronaldo had to settle with an assist for United’s third and Rashford’s second, firing a low cross into the six-yard area for a tap-in.

Spirited Omonia were not done yet though, reducing the deficit almost straight away as Panayiotou turned a tricky bouncing cross home with his left foot.

United saw the game out, but remain second in Group E after Real Sociedad won 2-0 in Sheriff – meaning a play-off against a team dropping out of the Champions League to reach the knockout stages remains a possibility.

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