Europa League wrap: Man Utd thrash Roma; Arsenal lose to Emery’s Villarreal
The dream of an all-Premier League final in the Europa League was dealt a moderately sized blow on Thursday, as 10-man Arsenal were soundly beaten by Villarreal and Manchester United overturned a halftime deficit to throttle Roma in their respective semifinal first legs.
Manchester United 6-2 Roma
Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani each scored twice and even assisted the other with one of their two goals. First, it was Cavani to Fernandes in the 9th minute, and what a glorious link-up it was. Cavani’s first-time through ball, Fernandes’ audacious chip — it was champagne football at Old Trafford.
Alas, the lead lasted just six minutes and Manchester United found themselves a goal behind after an old foe struck against them once again. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s halftime message was heard loud and clear — to the point that not only did the Red Devils pull level and ahead, but the score had gone from 1-2 to 5-2 in only 30 second-half minutes.
Fernandes returned the favor to Cavani in the 48th minute, then the Uruguayan slotted home an open-net rebound in the 64th, at which point the floodgates were open. Fernandes converted from the penalty spot in the 71st; Paul Pogba in the 75th; Mason Greenwood in the 86th.
Barring a complete collapse at the Stadio Olimpico next week, Manchester United appear set for their second Europa League final in five years, after winning the second-tier European competition by beating Ajax in 2017.
Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal
Manchester United did their part (and more), while Arsenal were extremely fortunate to come away trailing Villarreal, managed by former Gunners boss Unai Emery, by just one goal. The struggles started early and rarely relented.
Aside from the goals conceded, Arsenal offered absolutely nothing going forward in the first half. It was bad. Really bad, actually.
12 minutes into the second half, things got much worse for Mikel Arteta’s side, as Dani Ceballos was shown a second yellow card (his first came a minute before halftime).
There was, however, a (very generous) lifeline offered to the Gunners in the 73rd minute, and Nicolas Pepe put the golden chance away to set up a comfortably manageable second leg next Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.
Europa League semifinal draw, 2nd schedule
Roma v (2-6) Manchester United
Arsenal v (1-2) Villarreal
2nd leg: May 6