If Manchester United are to reach this season’s Champions League semi-finals, they’ll need to do it the hard way after losing 1-0 to Barcelona at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Luke Shaw’s 12th-minute own goal separated the two European giants at the final whistle.
Shaw inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net after Luis Suarez had attempted to score a header from a Lionel Messi pass.
All eyes were on Messi but the world-class Argentine forward had a surprisingly quiet game at the Theatre of Dreams.
He was lively during the opening half-hour but struggled to make an impact after being clattered by Chris Smalling, who left the five-time Ballon d’Or winner with blood pouring from his face following a strong challenge from behind.
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Smalling, who had said “Bring it on!” earlier this week when asked about the prospect of facing Messi, somehow avoided punishment.
Barça were already ahead by this point thanks to Shaw’s unfortunate own goal.
The goal had initially been ruled out for offside by referee Gianluca Rocchi, but it was correctly awarded following a VAR review.
Shaw then picked up a yellow card shortly afterwards for a foul on Messi which rules him out of next week’s second leg at the Camp Nou.
Despite their low possession stats - at one point they were on 16 per cent, compared to their opponent' 84 per cent - United had chances to score during the opening 45 minutes.
Diogo Dalot had the best opportunity to score after being picked out at the back post by Marcus Rashford, but the 20-year-old’s header failed to trouble Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the visitors’ goal.
The Red Devils grew in confidence after the break and began to control the game.
Scott McTominay, in particular, was very impressive for the hosts.
However, they struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities to equalise and never really looked like scoring.
Ernesto Valverde’s side, on the other hand, wasted a good opportunity to double their advantage when Suarez struck the side-netting from a good position.
The contest petered out during the closing stages - Barça satisfied with their 1-0 advantage and keeping their opponents at bay in the process - and United will now need to win at the Camp Nou in order to reach the last four of this season’s Champions League.News Now - Sport News