9th March, 2012
David de Gea’s heroics could not prevent Manchester United from slumping to a 3-2 first leg loss to Athletic Bilbao after a breathless Europa League last-16 clash at Old Trafford Thursday night.
Wayne Rooney scored first for United on 22 minutes, but it was barely deserved as a vibrant visiting side illustrated their dominance by moving 3-1 ahead courtesy of some wonderfully energetic and slick passing movements.
The gigantic striker Fernando Llorente headed a deserved equaliser for the La Liga team on 44 minutes before Oscar de Marcos turned to smack home a delicious volley on 72 minutes.
Iker Muniain added a third with a minute left on the clock after United goalkeeper De Gea had threw himself across his goal to pull off the last of several outstanding saves from a stinging De Marcos effort.
Rooney gave United hope for the second leg at San Mames next Thursday when he drilled a penalty beyond goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in stoppage time, but it is a minor miracle Sir Alex Ferguson’s side got out of the match losing by only one goal.
Ferguson admitted that his side had been “well beaten” on the night, but was not happy about the award of a free-kick in the lead-up to Bilbao’s third goal when Patrice Evra was penalised for passing the ball after a boot came off.
Bilbao took the free-kick quick and went up the other end of the park to score a third goal.
In truth, United could have lost by more than the odd goal in five as Marcelo Bielsa’s young team set about their task with some relish roared on by a vociferous band of travelling supporters who enjoyed their trip to Manchester as if they had won the trophy.
Europa League R/16 First-leg Results :
Man United 2-3 Bilbao
Valencia 4-2 PSV
Standard Liege 2-2 Hannover
AZ 2-0 Udinese
Sporting 1-0 Man City
Twente 1-0 Schalke
Atletico Madrid 3-1 Besiktas Metalist Kharkiv 0-1 Olympiacos