Man Utd rebound to beat Betis, Arsenal held by Sporting in Europa League

MANCHESTER: Manchester United bounced back from a historic blow against Liverpool to beat Real Betis 4-1 in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday, while a 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon gave Arsenal work to reach the quarter-finals.

United equalized their heaviest defeat ever and their worst since 1931 with Sunday’s 7-0 defeat at Anfield.

Erik ten Hag responded by choosing the same starting XI and was rewarded with a return to form.

“You see how a team reacts after a setback,” said Ten Hag. “This isn’t the first time this season, I think you see five or six times that we can reset and bounce back. This team has character, so kudos to the team.”

Marcus Rashford gave United an early lead with his 26th goal of the season, but Betis equalized against the flow of play when Ayoze Perez fired in the far corner.

It was two of United’s most heavily criticized stars in recent days who made the difference after the break.

Antony rolled a brilliant shot into the top corner before Bruno Fernandes, who Ten Hag re-captured, headed into Luke Shaw’s corner.

“Bruno was brilliant today,” added Ten Hag. “He led the team from the first minute through his possession game, set the rhythm of the game and scored a goal, I’m happy with that.”

Wout Weghorst then scored just his second goal in 15 games for United by striking from close range with six minutes remaining.

Premier League leaders Arsenal had to come from behind in the Portuguese capital to salvage a draw.

Despite chasing their first league title in 19 years, Mikel Arteta presented a strong squad and William Saliba put the visitors ahead.

Sporting equalized in almost identical fashion shortly after, with Goncalo Inacio heading home Marcus Edwards’ corner.

Former Tottenham midfielder Edwards then played a role in Sporting’s second goal when Paulinho reacted the quickest to land in the box.

However, Arsenal were level just after the hour mark when a cross from Granit Xhaka was deflected off the unfortunate Hidemasa Morita and bounced back into his own net.

“When you think you can concede two goals away from home and still come away with a draw, you have to take something positive,” said Arsenal manager Arteta.

“But we gave them too much hope by giving the ball too often in their own half.”

– Advantage for Italian giants –

Juventus will take a narrow lead to Germany next week after the in-form Angel di Maria scored the only goal in their 1-0 win over Freiburg.

Jose Mourinho’s Roma are also on course for the last eight after goals from Stephan El Shaarawy and Marash Kumbulla beat Real Sociedad 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Six-time winners Sevilla may be battling relegation in La Liga but are always a threat in the Europa League and will lead 2-0 against Fenerbahce to Istanbul next week thanks to goals from Joan Jordan and Erik Lamela in the first leg.

In the game of the evening, the surprise Bundesliga team Union Berlin managed to draw 3-3 against Union Saint-Gilloise despite falling three times behind.

Bayer Leverkusen defeated Ferencvaros 2-0 at home while Shakhtar Donetsk and Feyenoord drew 1-1.

Michael Antonio scored twice in the first half in West Ham’s 2-0 win at AEK Larnaca in the UEFA Conference League.

Villarreal were beaten 1-1 at Anderlecht, while Nice and Fiorentina led 1-0 against Sheriff Tiraspol and Sivasspor respectively.

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