Manchester United must produce another unlikely Champions League comeback to keep their hopes alive after Barcelona left Old Trafford with a slender 1-0 advantage following the quarter-final first leg today.
Barcelona, with superstar Lionel Messi quiet by his standards, were nowhere near their best but secured the win after Luis Suarez’s far post header from the Argentine’s pass deflected in off Luke Shaw in the 12th minute and was confirmed by the video assistant referee after initially being given offside.
New Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can take heart from his team’s great endeavour but opportunities were at a premium, the best being a first-half header from Diogo Dalot that he directed off target. In fact United did not muster a single shot on target.
Barcelona still posed a threat, with David de Gea saving from Philippe Coutinho and Messi – and United must now repeat their last-16 heroics against Paris St-Germain in France when they travel to the Nou Camp chasing a semi-final spot against Liverpool or Porto.
Manchester United’s players took the applause of Old Trafford – but it was acknowledgment of a plucky effort rather than praise for any serious quality.
United had excellent performers, with youngster Scott McTominay delivering a performance of real maturity, but the bottom line was that they barely laid a glove on Barcelona all night.
And the frustration for the Premier League side will be that this should be regarded as a missed opportunity because Barcelona were light years away from their flowing best here.
Solskjaer and his side are left hoping for the same sort of miracle that saw them overcome a 2-0 home defeat to come through the last 16 against PSG – but lightning does not usually strike twice, Barcelona are a superior side and the Red Devils have won only once in the Nou Camp, when they beat Bayern Munich there in the 1999 Champions League final.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo secured an away goal for Juventus as they drew the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Ajax 1-1.
Ronaldo, who has won the competition five times, netted his 125th Champions League goal just before half-time with a diving header following Joao Cancelo’s cross.
The goal had come against the run of play, but the hosts equalised within a minute of the second half starting, through David Neres’ fine curling effort from 15 yards.
Both teams had late chances with Ajax’s Jurgen Ekkelenkamp having a shot saved before Juventus substitute Douglas Costa hit the post.
But neither side could grab a winner and they meet in the second leg in Turin on Tuesday, April 16.
The winners of the tie face either Tottenham or Manchester City in the semi-finals, with Mauricio Pochettino’s side holding a 1-0 advantage after Tuesday’s first leg in London. (BBC)