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Barça and Man United have drawn 2-2 in an absolutely brilliant advert for the Europa League. There was barely a moment of respite from the relentless action as the Catalans took the lead just after half-time but the visitors quickly responded with two goals at the other end.
As United surged forward in search of more, there was lingering fear that another European nightmare might be on the way. But far from it, Barça neutralised the threat, levelled the scores and in the end came away frustrated that they couldn’t get anything more out of a number of promising situations late in the game.
It all leaves everything wide, wide open for the second leg in Manchester in seven days’ time. It's going to be a cracker.
But there was also a major blow for Barça when Pedri hobbled off injured with a hamstring injury just before half-time. Tests will confirm the full extent of the problem. A further difficulty is the fact that Gavi picked up a suspension and won't be available for Old Trafford.
This was not a Champions League game, but given the quality and intensity of the football on display, and the fabulous atmosphere inside a packed stadium, that detail was often very easy to forget.
Barça looked a lot less comfortable than they have done in recent matches. Although they dominated in certain phases, so did Man United, who just about edged the first half in terms of chances.
But the two men standing head and shoulders above the rest in the first 45 minutes were David de Gea and Ter Stegen. United’s stopper thwarted great chances for Robert Lewandowski and Jordi Alba, while the German’s saves to deny Wout Weghorst and Marcus Rashford were even better.
This wasn’t proving easy at all, but moments after Jadon Sancho had fired a simple chance wide, Barça were ahead. Marcos Alonso rose to meet a corner at the far post, and was able to dedicate the goal, visibly moved, to his father who died last week.
Spotify Camp Nou went electric. But the joy was sadly short-lived.
United fight back
Rashford capped a powerful run by slipping his shot between Ter Stegen and the post and United were back level.
And just a few minutes later, the same player tricked the Barça defence with run from a corner and down the byline and sent the ball right into the midst of a melee on the goal-line where an unfortunate Jules Kounde ended up knocking the ball into his own net.
After going from ecstasy to agony in a matter of minutes, Barça had to push things forward, but in full awareness of the danger of being exposed to United’s lethal counter-attack.
And although United did indeed have chances to extend their lead, the stadium sprung back to life when Raphinha’s 76th minute howitzer finally got the sides back level at 2-2.
To be fair, the intention probably wasn't to score with the shot, and there was some doubt as to whether Lewandowski got a touch of the ball on the way in, but the goal was eventually awarded to the Brazilian.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Barça were finally on top and a third goal was there for the taking.
They hit the woodwork, Ansu Fati’s great chance was spectacularly stopped by De Gea and there seemed to be a very valid penalty claim for handball too.
A simply extraordinary game of football drew to a conclusion with absolutely no let-up in the action. But there are at least 90 more minutes of this to come next Thursday at Old Trafford.
And judging by today’s events, absolutely anything could happen. And remember, away goals no longer matter in European football... Força Barça!
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