Sports Desk, Mar 9 (EFE).- Manchester United beat Real Betis 4-1 Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 battle, while Premier League leaders Arsenal came from behind to secure a 2-2 away draw with Sporting.
Showing confidence in his players, United coach Erik ten Hag went with the same starting 11 as last Sunday’s 7-0 loss to Liverpool, the Red Devils’ worst-ever defeat in the Premier League.
United started fast at Old Trafford and a red-hot Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for the hosts in the 6th minute, less than a minute after teammate Wout Weghorst had a goal disallowed for offside.
Weghorst would have made it 2-0 in the 9th minute if not for a good stop by Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The Dutchman went on to fire wide and over the cross-bar on subsequent chances before Ayoze Perez brought the visitors level in the 32nd minute.
Perez had a chance to give Betis the lead in the 44th, but his strike bounced off the post and it would turn out to be the last serious threat from the Spanish team.
Antony restored the edge for United seven minutes into the second half and the home side led 3-1 at the hour thanks to a goal by Bruno Fernandes.
Weghorst finally got his goal in the 82nd minute for the 4-1 and only Bravo stood between Betis and complete humiliation, as the Chilean made five saves in the second half.
In Lisbon, the Gunners went ahead in the 22nd minute on William Saliba’s excellent header off a corner and Oleksandr Zinchenko forced a save from Sporting keeper Antonio Adan five minutes later.
At the other end, Goncalo Inacio was denied by Arsenal keeper Matt Turner in the 33rd minute before getting the equalizer a minute later.
Paulinho put Sporting ahead in the 55th minute, exploiting a poor clearance by Turner, and only a perfectly executed tackle by defender Jeremiah St. Juste stopped Gabriel Martinelli from responding for the Gunners in the 59th.
Three minutes later, Sporting midfielder Hidemasa Morita’s attempt to break up a pass from Granit Xhaka to Martinelli ended with the ball in his own net.
Adan came up big twice in the final 30 minutes to preserve the 2-2 deadlock and leave the tie to be decided next week in London.
In Thursday’s other notable Europa League contests, Juventus topped SC Freiburg 1-0, Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma blanked Real Sociedad 2-0 and Sevilla beat Fenerbahce by the same score.