MADRID (Reuters) – Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory at Granada in the Europa League quarter-final first leg to put their side in the driving seat.
In a game where clear-cut chances were sparse, the highlight of a dull opening quarter came when a streaker somehow managed to find his way onto the pitch, despite crowds not being allowed to attend the match due to COVID-19 protocols.
Rashford’s goal just past the half hour was the game’s standout piece of quality.
Victor Lindelof strode out of defence and his long ball was perfectly weighted into the path of the England forward, who controlled well before coolly finishing to put United ahead and notch up his 20th goal of the season in all competitions.
Granada fought for a way back into what was billed as the biggest match in their recent history, with Chelsea loanee Kenedy testing David de Gea from range before Yangel Herrera – on loan from Manchester City – hit the post with a volley.
In a cagey second-half, Fernandes was denied from close range by a save from Portuguese countryman Rui Silva late on before the midfielder netted United’s second with a stoppage-time penalty after being felled by substitute Yan Brice Eteki.
“It’s a massive win. We knew it was going to be hard coming here,” United forward Daniel James told BT Sport.
“Marcus took his goal really well and Bruno put his penalty away at the end. We always knew it was going to be tough. We had to play our football, which is where the first goal came from. Obviously the second goal gives us a good platform.”
“Today’s a great win. We need to go into next week with the same attitude as today.”
United will be without suspended club captain Harry Maguire, as well as Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay for the return leg after the trio were booked.
The winners of the tie will face the victors in Ajax Amsterdam’s clash with AS Roma in which the Italians hold a 2-1 lead from their first away leg which was also played on Thursday.
(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Ken Ferris)