Manchester United's Antony, left, celebrates with Manchester United's Marcus Rashford after scoring his side's second goal during the Europa League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Manchester United and Real Betis at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
MANCHESTER, England — Chants of “Bruno! Bruno!” reverberated around Old Trafford as the healing process began for Manchester United.
The wounds from Sunday’s humiliating 7-0 rout by Liverpool remain fresh. But a 4-1 win against Real Betis in the Europa League was an encouraging response from Erik ten Hag’s players.
None more so than Bruno Fernandes, who scored one and had a role in two more in the round-of-16 first leg on Thursday.
“I think he was the best player on the pitch, it showed his personality,” United manager Ten Hag said.
The Dutchman had given his team the chance to begin making amends for Anfield by naming an unchanged lineup. It had the desired effect.
Marcus Rashford scored his 26th goal of the season.
Antony swept a shot into the top corner from distance. And Wout Weghorst, who had faced a backlash on social media for touching the famous “This is Anfield” sign, let his emotion show when firing in United’s fourth.
But perhaps no one needed redemption more than Fernandes, who received the brunt of the criticism after the collapse against Liverpool. On this occasion his efforts were greeted with approval by United fans as well as Ten Hag.
“Bruno was fantastic. He led the team with his control of the game and passing and then he scored a goal,” Ten Hag said.
The Portugal international raced toward the Stretford End after heading United into a 3-1 lead in the 58th minute and placed his hands over his ears as if to shut out the noise that has followed Sunday’s loss.
There was a moment when he let his enthusiasm overflow with a late challenge on Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, but this was night when he channeled his passion in the right way by putting United within reach of the quarterfinals.
Former United captain and now TV analyst Gary Neville had labeled Fernandes’ performance against Liverpool a “disgrace.”
Against Betis he was United’s driving force.
The Old Trafford crowd sang his name loud as he walked out onto the field to confirm he still had their support.
It was his cross that led to the opening goal after six minutes when Luiz Felipe diverted the ball into Rashford’s path. The England striker drove into the box and lashed a shot into the top corner.
The game was level at halftime after on-loan Leicester forward Ayoze Perez fired a low shot past David de Gea in the 32nd. Perez was only denied a second when Fernandes’ challenge diverted his shot against the post before the break.
Antony put United back in front seven minutes into the second half with a curling effort from outside of the box after being played in by Fernandes. United’s No. 8 went from provider to goal-scorer when he headed in Luke Shaw’s corner to put his team in complete control.
But perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Weghorst lashed the ball home in the 82nd after missing a host of earlier chances. The raw emotion was evident as he celebrated only his second goal since joining on loan from Burnley in January and his first at Old Trafford.
Premier League leader Arsenal was held 2-2 at Sporting Lisbon in their Europa League round-of-16 first-leg match.
Hidemasa Morita’s own goal in the 62nd minute salvaged the draw for Arsenal ahead of the return leg at Emirates Stadium next Thursday for a spot in the quarterfinals.
“There are things to improve, but we showed a lot of resilience,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
Morita deflected Granit Xhaka’s long-distance drive into his own net.
Arsenal dominated early possession and went ahead through William Saliba. The defender headed in the opener for Arsenal from a corner from Fábio Vieira to capitalize on early pressure in the 22nd.
Sporting equalized with almost an identical reply, as Arsenal’s defense looked vulnerable.
Gonçalo Inácio headed home off a Marcus Edwards corner past goalkeeper Matt Turner 12 minutes after Saliba’s goal.
It was Sporting’s first goal against Arsenal in their fifth encounter in European competitions.
Ángel Di María headed in the winner in the second half to give Juventus a 1-0 first-leg win over Freiburg.
The 35-year-old veteran has scored four goals in his last two Europa League games.
Juventus was without midfielder Paul Pogba who was dropped due to “disciplinary reasons.”
Elsewhere, Joan Jordán and Erik Lamela scored in a 2-0 win for six-time champion Sevilla over Fenerbahçe.
Ezequiel Bullaude equalized late to secure a 1-1 draw for Feyenoord at Shakhtar Donetsk, the last Ukrainian team left in this season’s European competitions. Yaroslav Rakitskyy scored for the hosts in Warsaw because of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
Substitute Sven Michel salvaged a 3-3 draw for Union Berlin against Union Saint-Gilloise with a goal a minute from the end in the German capital.
At Stadio Olimpico in Rome, José Mourinho’s Roma made a step toward advancing with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad.
Tammy Abraham set up the opening goal for Stephan El Shaarawy to finish a fast counter in the first half before substitute defender Marash Kumbulla doubled the advantage with a close-range header.
Bayer Leverkusen had the same advantage over Ferencváros after Kerem Demirbay opened the scoring in the 10th, and Edmond Tapsoba added the second for the hosts.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Michail Antonio struck twice in the first half to guide West Ham past AEK Larnaca 2-0 in Cyprus.
Despite a troubled season in the Premier League, the Hammers have been cruising in the third-tier European competition with a perfect record.
Fiorentina won 1-0 over Turkey’s Sivasspor, and Nice beat Sheriff in Moldova 1-0, while Poland’s Lech Poznan defeated Swedish club Djurgarden 2-0. There were also draws: Basel and Slovan Bratislava 2-2, Gent and Istanbul Basaksehir 1-1.
GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who have actively served in the military invasion of Ukraine should be allowed to return to international sports if they did not take part in war crimes, according to a United Nations expert advising the International Olympic Committee.
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