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Manchester United 2-0 Cardiff City: Van Persie, Young goals give Red Devils win in Mata’s debut (video)

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The debut of Juan Mata was a successful one for Manchester United, thanks to goals from Robin Van Persie and Ashley Young. Holding a lead for 84 minutes at Old Trafford, the Red Devils claimed a 2-0 win over visiting Cardiff, ruining Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s return to the Theater of Dreams.

The former United striker and youth coach was making his first trip to Stretford as Cardiff manager, having been appointed Bluebirds’ boss on Jan. 2. The loss, however, leaves the former Red Devils winless in the Premier League, with loss leaving Solksjaer’s new club to languish in the Premier League’s cellar.

Van Persie, making his first appearance since Dec. 10, got Manchester United on the scoresheet early, the striker’s close range header beating a sprawling David Marshall to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead. On a play started by Mata, United went close after Antonio Valencia headed a cross from Young onto the crossbar. The ensuing rebound fell to Van Persie, who needed two cracks at goal before putting United up one.

Van Persie nearly grabbed a second later in the half, pulling a sharp angle shot from the left just wide of the far post. For most of the period, however, the sides stood on relatively even footing. Cardiff also went close once but where otherwise unable to break down United in their final third. The Red Devils, using Mata as their focal point, couldn’t build on the momentum of their opening score. The sides went into halftime 1-0.

The second half opened with United continuing to allow Cardiff their share of the ball, but just short of the hour mark, a strike from distance rendered that run up insignificant. Cutting in from the left flank, Young pulled up just shot of the penalty area to launch a shot toward Marshall’s left post. Making defensive midfielder Gary Medel pay for his unwillingness to close him down, the United winger nestled his shot into the right side netting, giving United a 2-0 lead.

A relatively lifeless final half hour nearly saw United grab a third through a series of chances near the 80th minute. For the most part, though, the match ended once Young’s ball found nylon. With United forced on staying organized while Cardiff embrace their fate, the match faded into its 2-0 conclusion, the Red Devils’ additions and returns given them their second win of the new year.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: David De Gea, Rafael, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs (Tom Cleverley 71′), Ashley Young, Juan Mata (Adnan Januzaj 85′), Robin Van Persie (Wayne Rooney 63′)

Goals: Van Persie (6′), Young (59′)

Cardiff City: David Marshall, Declan John, Steven Caulker, Mark Hudson (Ben Turner 69′), Kevin McNaughton, Gary Medel, Craig Noone, (Mats Daehli 78′), Jordan Mutch (Kim Bo-Kyung 52′), Craig Bellamy, Peter Whittingham, Frazier Campbell

Vincent Kompany forced off just nine minutes into Man City’s UCL semi

MADRID, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Pepe of Real Madrid checks on the injured Vincent Kompany of Manchester City  during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Vincent Kompany managed just nine minutes in Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid before going down with a thigh injury.

The City captain pulled up around midfield and immediately went down, replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Man City ]

Earlier this season in the Champions League, Kompany lasted just six minutes before leaving the pitch with a calf injury against Dynamo Kiev.

At 30-years-old, injuries have been Kompany’s biggest enemy this season, with the Belgian center-back managing just 13 starts in the Premier League.

Anfield nights: Liverpool prepares for second leg vs Villarreal

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Dejan Lovren (L) and Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool arrive for a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final Second Leg match against Villarreal at Melwood Training Ground on May 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images
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Denis Suarez found Adrian Lopez on a streaking counter attack in the last gasps of stoppage time, breaking 90 minutes worth of stern resilience from Liverpool.

What a difference a minute can make.

Villarreal enters the second leg of its UEFA Europa League semifinal against Liverpool with a 1-0 lead and the knowledge that a draw or one-goal scoring loss will put it into the final.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

For their part, the Reds will be amped up by the Anfield faithful on Thursday, and Jurgen Klopp will hope to make amends for a Starting XI and substitution set that left Liverpool fans asking, “Why no Sturridge, boss?

Liverpool won’t be too worried, though, given its Europa record when in need of a comeback. The Reds came back to topple Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals, one of the most enthralling matches in recent memory.

Suffice it to say that Reds don’t want to go down 2-0 again, and expect a bit more of a chess match this go-round. Here’s Dejan Lovren, from LiverpoolFC.com:

“[It will be] maybe even more than 90 minutes, so like I said – we need to be clever enough. We don’t just have 20 minutes to play the game, we have 90 minutes so everything is possible. The fans know and are expecting a massive game, but we will take it smarter than the last time [against Dortmund]. It would be a great season for us if we go to the final and win it.”

Klopp opted to rest several regulars in Sunday’s loss to Swansea, with names like Smith, Stewart, Ojo, Chirivella and Ward on the pitch. Those will likely give way to more established names Mignolet, Lucas and Lallana come Friday.

Villarreal is coming off a 2-0 win over Valencia, and holding onto a shutout streak of more than three matches (including Thursday’s win over Liverpool). They’ll have to do very well to hold Liverpool scoreless, but perhaps a road goal will be all “The Yellow Submarine” needs to advance to the final in Basel.

UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Man City looks to upend Real Madrid in Spain

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Pepe of Real Madrid CF battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Real Madrid needs a win at home against Manchester City to give the UEFA Champions League its second Madrid Derby final in three years.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Bernabeu and, unlike the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the lineup for Real Madrid.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

Man City has Yaya Toure back in the fold, and Vincent Kompany will captain the unit.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Jese, Isco, Ronaldo. Subs: Casilla, Varane, James, Kovacic, Lucas Vazquez, Danilo, Borja Mayoral.

 Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Kolarov, Delph, Sterling, Bony, Iheanacho.

Reports say Wambach entering the fields of broadcasting, reporting

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  America soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach  attends the 2016 MAKERS Conference Day 2 at the Terrenea Resort on February 2, 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL)
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL
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She’s dipped her toes into the pool during the FIFA elections, and now USWNT soccer legend Abby Wambach may have found her second career.

The all-time leading goal scorer in international competition, Wambach will be branching into the media field.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

The Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson says it’ll be as an analyst and contributor, while Sports Illustrated media mastermind Richard Deitsch expects her to dig a bit deeper into the reporting world.

Many athletes have succeeded in becoming broadcasters, but true reporting is a different animal. This will be an interesting story to follow.

Wambach’s name was in the news earlier this year when she plead guilty for a DUII charge. She retired from the playing field in December.