MANCHESTER: Manchester United bounced back from a historic thrashing by Liverpool to beat Real Betis 4-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday, while a 2-2 draw away to Sporting Lisbon gave Arsenal work to do to reach the quarter-finals.
United equalled their heaviest ever defeat and worst since 1931 in losing 7-0 at Anfield on Sunday.
Erik ten Hag responded by naming the same starting line-up and was rewarded with a return to form.
“You see how a team reacts after a setback,” said Ten Hag. “This is not the first time this season, I think you see five or six times we can reset and bounce back. This team has character so a big compliment to the team.”
Marcus Rashford smashed United into an early lead with his 26th goal of the season, but Betis levelled against the run of play when Ayoze Perez fired into the far corner.
It was two of United’s most fiercely criticised stars in recent days who made the difference after the break.
Antony curled a brilliant shot into the top corner before Bruno Fernandes, who Ten Hag named again as captain, headed in Luke Shaw’s corner.
“Bruno was brilliant today,” added Ten Hag. “He led the team from the first minute by his game in possession, making the rhythm of the game and scored a goal so I am happy.”
Wout Weghorst then netted just his second goal in 15 appearances for United by pouncing from close range six minutes from time.
Premier League leaders Arsenal were forced to come from behind to salvage a draw in the Portuguese capital.
Despite going for a first league title in 19 years, Mikel Arteta named a strong side and William Saliba headed the visitors into the lead.
Sporting equalised shortly after in near identical fashion, with Goncalo Inacio heading home Marcus Edwards’ corner.
Former Tottenham midfielder Edwards then had a role in Sporting’s second as Paulinho reacted quickest to finish inside the area.
Arsenal were level just after the hour mark, though, when Granit Xhaka’s cross deflected off the unfortunate Hidemasa Morita and rebounded into his own net.
“Considering you concede two goals away from home and still escape with a draw you have to take some positives,” said Arsenal boss Arteta.
“But we gave them too much hope by giving the ball away in our own half too many times.”
– Advantage to Italian giants –
Juventus will take a narrow lead to Germany next week after the in-form Angel di Maria scored the only goal in a 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 saw off Real Sociedad 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Six-time winners Sevilla may be fighting a relegation battle in La Liga, but are always a threat in the Europa League and will take a 2-0 first leg lead over Fenerbahce to Istanbul next week thanks to goals from Joan Jordan and Erik Lamela.
The game of the night saw Bundesliga surprise package Union Berlin snatch a 3-3 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise despite having trailed three times.
Bayer Leverkusen beat Ferencvaros 2-0 at home, while Shakhtar Donetsk and Feyenoord played out a 1-1 draw.
In the UEFA Conference League, Michael Antonio hit two first half goals to earn West Ham a 2-0 win at AEK Larnaca.
Villarreal were held 1-1 away at Anderlecht, while Nice and Fiorentina took 1-0 leads over Sheriff Tiraspol and Sivasspor respectively.