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Man United, Wolves seal key Europa League wins

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Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers both secured narrow wins away from home in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule, table

United beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0 in Serbia to stay top of Group L as a win in their next game, at home against Partizan, will seal their qualification to the knockout stage. Anthony Martial‘s penalty kick was enough to get the win in Belgrade in a tough environment as an inexperienced United side struggled to get going in attack.

As for Wolves, they fought back from 1-0 down to beat Slovan Bratislava 2-1 in Slovakia as they breathed new life into their Europa League campaign in Group K. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men now have two of their final three group games at home and will fancy their chances of extending their first European journey in almost 40 years.

Here’s a look at both games, with video and analysis of a very decent night for both clubs in Europe.


Partizan Belgrade 0-1 Man United

Man United should have led early but Scott McTominay nodded wide after a great free kick from Juan Mata. Partizan battled their way back into the game as the heavy pitch didn’t suit Martial and others.

Lingard hit the post in the first half as United looked dangerous on the break, but Partizan’s top goalscorer Sadiq also smashed the post as the game developed into an open encounter. Asano went close with an effort which flew wide but Brandon Williams won a penalty kick at the end of the first half which Martial dispatched to make it 1-0.

In the second half Seydouba Soumah went close as Marcus Rashford and Daniel James came on for the final 30 minutes. Williams looked to have handled the ball but the referee waved away calls from the home fans as they continued to appeal for penalty kicks.

Sadiq flashed a shot wide as Partizan pushed a late leveller but Sergio Romero saved Asano’s effort and Bibras Natcho fired just over as a young United side held on for a big win away from home. The win was United’s first victory away from home in 12 games in all competitions.


Slovan Bratislava 1-2 Wolves

Wolves went 1-0 down early as Andraz Sporar put Slovan ahead, as he raced clear and smashed home at the near post past Rui Patricio.

A poor start for Wolves in Slovakia.

The home side were fairly comfortable until the final 30 minutes when Wolves equalized as Romain Saiss had a shot from distance which somehow went in.

Slovan’s goalkeeper Dominik Greif will not want to see this one again.

After that it was all Wolves and they took the lead from the penalty spot just five minutes after equalizing.

Jimenez was pushed to the ground in the box and the Mexican striker picked himself up to slot home the winner as Willy Boly came close to adding another.

Substitute Diogo Jota was sent off late on as he picked up a second yellow for a foul on Slovan captain Vasil Bozhikov, but Wolves held on for a crucial victory in their quest to reach the knockout rounds.

Jota takes super sub to new level in Wolves win

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Sometimes the phrase “game changer” is used a bit too loosely, but there’s no debating Diogo Jota fit the bill to a ‘t’ on Thursday.

Wolves scored four times in 11 minutes, three coming courtesy Jota, as the Premier League side buried Besiktas 4-0 in Europa League play on Thursday.

Jota entered in the 56th minute, scored in the 57th, and completed his hat trick in the 68th.

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men had already clinched a place in the knockout rounds before the match day, and finish one point below Braga in Group K.

[ MORE: Who can Wolves draw in UEL? ]

Jota has five goals in five days after scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 23-year-old had an up-and-down season to start but has been mostly good over the past half-dozen games.

He has 37 goals in 107 matches with Wolves, including nine in all competitions this season. He scored nine times last season after a 17-goal campaign in the Championship.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ other goal, with the day’s assists going to Oskar Buur, Joao Moutinho, and Pedro Neto.

 

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Europa League?

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Group winners Arsenal and Manchester United will avoid a loaded batch of seeded teams, while runners-up Wolves can draw a bevy of powerful teams in the Europa League Round of 32.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can find himself drawn against former club Porto, but also could have to match wits with Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, Inter Milan’s Antonio Conte, or Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch.

[ MORE: Man Utd pounds AZ ]

Speaking of Marsch, the Salzburg boss could go from meeting Liverpool to squaring off with Steven Gerrard and Rangers.

Gerrard could also, of course, go up against hated playing days’ rival Manchester United.

Seeded teams
Ajax
Arsenal
Basel
Benfica
Braga
Celtic
Espanyol
Gent
Inter Milan
Istanbul Basaksehir
LASK
Malmo
Manchester United
Porto
Red Bull Salzburg
Sevilla

Unseeded teams
APOEL Nicosia
AZ Alkmaar
Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge
Copenhagen
CFR Cluj
Eintracht Frankfurt
Ludogorets Razgrad
Olympiacos
Rangers
Roma
Wolfsburg
Wolves
Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon

Who can Premier League teams draw in the Round of 32?

Arsenal: APOEL Nicosia, AZ Alkmaar, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Manchester United: APOEL Nicosia, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Eintracht Frankfurt, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Wolves: Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Malmo, Porto, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.