Barcelona boss Xavi says he’s ‘proud’ of his players after thrilling draw against Man United in Europa League play-off… and he warns they will have to show the same commitment in second leg at Old Trafford
- Barcelona 2-2 Man United: European giants serve up THRILLER at the Nou Camp
- Re-live the action from Nou Camp as it happened in the Europa League play-off
- ‘It feels like a loss’: Marcus Rashford is left frustrated after Barcelona’s equaliser
Barcelona boss Xavi praised his players after a rip-roaring 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the first leg of their Europa League knockout play-off clash.
LaLiga leaders Barcelona struck first, five minutes after the break, when Marcos Alonso scored with a towering header at the far post from a corner.
Marcus Rashford levelled three minutes later with a smart low finish between Ter Stegen and the near post. The in-form Rashford also created United’s second, sprinting into the box from a short corner and delivering a low cross into a crowded six-yard area where the ball deflected into the goal off defender Jules Kounde.
Barcelona dug deep to grab the equaliser, however, and mistakes by United’s defence gifted the ball on the edge of their box to Raphinha whose cross eluded David de Gea and went into the net.
Afterwards Xavi said: ‘It was a really tough game, really difficult with a lot of intensity, passion, rhythm. We have to be proud because we competed well until the end.
Barcelona boss Xavi with Man United Erik ten Hag after Thursday’s thrilling encounter
Barcelona defender Marcos Alonso opened the scoring in the 50th minute
Barcelona dug deep to grab the equaliser as Raphinha’s cross eluded David de Gea
‘We could have won in the last two chances but we played against a top team in Europe. Manchester is coming back and today they showed their best version.
‘We competed really well, we need to be proud. Now we need to compete well in Old Trafford.
‘Both teams are more or less in the same moment, same position that we are coming back. I say to Ten Hag now congratulations because he’s doing very well. They are Manchester United. It can be a final or semi-final or quarter-final maybe in the future of the Champions League.
‘Now we are in the Europa League we are coming back and today we showed a very good performance both teams.’
These global giants fought for Champions League glory in the 2009 and 2011 finals, but recent travails mean they are playing away from the continent’s top table as they continue their respective rebuilds.
Thursday’s eagerly-anticipated meeting lived up to the billing as Rashford scored his 22nd goal of the season and fizzed in the cross that Jules Kounde turned into his own goal as United responded superbly to Marcos Alonso’s 50th-minute opener for Barcelona.
United shone in Spain but Raphinha’s cross found its way into the net to peg them back and sparked a breathless conclusion to a wild tie, setting up a mouth-watering return fixture at Old Trafford next week.
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