UEFA Europa League Round of 16 First Leg
FC Rostov vs. Manchester United
Venue: Olimp-2 Stadium
Date: Thursday, 9 March 2017
Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Manchester United secured a 1-1 draw away at FC Rostov in this season’s Europa League Round of 16 first leg.
In difficulties conditions, Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan bagged in Russia to give the visitors the led during a first half they looked comfortable in.
A second half pattern shift meant that Aleksandr Bukharov salvaged the draw for the hosts, with the tie evenly poised ahead of next week’s return.
Christian Noboa’s shot was held by Sergio Romero early on, as Paul Pogba’s miscue at the other end was a big chance gone begging as Ander Herrera’s rebound was blocked.
Tempers began to flare as Mkhitaryan and Alexandru Gatcan received bookings for separate incidents, with the latter now ruled out of next week’s second leg.
There was arguably a legitimate penalty appeal turned away as Chris Smalling seemed to be fouled inside the penalty area from a corner, but the decision bizarrely went the other way.
The opening came from Phil Jones’ diagonal ball that was brought down expertly by Marouane Fellaini, whose slipped in Ibrahimovic and the Swede’s pull back was put away by Mkhitaryan.
Looking for an immediate response, Noboa saw another shot held as substitute Denis Terentyev saw a header claimed by Romero.
Bukharov was then booked for a foul on Marcos Rojo having already been penalised for challenges on Chris Smalling and Jones earlier in the half, as the interval arrived.
After the restart, Ibrahimovic fired over from a promising position, before one wing-back to another combined with Daley Blind’s low cross sliced wide from the onrushing Ashley Young.
Caught napping at the back, a long ball from Timofei Kalachev found Bukharov, who brought it down before finishing past the helpless Romero and equalise for the home side.
A big chance fell for Aleksandr Yerokhin whose outside of the boot attempt flew wide before Fellaini’s header was held from Blind’s corner.
Kalachev curled over shortly after being booked, but full-time brought to a close a tricky away tie for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Given the long travel, fixture congestion, dreadful surface and Rostov’s impressive home form, a score draw in this first leg can be seen more positive than negative.
The return leg at Old Trafford takes place next Thursday at 8:05pm GMT, where United will be hoping to book their place in the quarter-final draw.
Before then is a mouthwatering clash away at Chelsea in the FA Cup.
That quarter-final contest takes place at 7:45pm GMT this Monday at Stamford Bridge, with Mourinho hoping to overcome his old side and potentially make up for the league loss at the same venue back in October.
United: Romero; Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind (Valencia 90+2); Herrera (Carrick 90+2), Fellaini, Pogba; Mkhitaryan (Martial 68), Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: De Gea, Mata, Lingard, Rashford.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Rostov: Medvedev; Kalachev, Navas, Granat (Terentyev 18), Mevlja, Kudryashov; Yerokhin, Gatcan, Noboa; Poloz, Bukharov (Azmoun 74).
Subs not used: Kireev, Bayramyan, Prepelita, Goshev.
Manager: Ivan Daniliants