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Antony completes comeback as Manchester United oust Barca to reach last 16

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Antony was the hero as Manchester United progressed to the Europa League last 16 thanks to a 2-1 win over Barcelona at Old Trafford that secured a 4-3 aggregate success.

Robert Lewandowski put the Blaugrana ahead with an 18th-minute penalty following a pulsating 2-2 draw at Camp Nou last week.

But Fred equalised early in the second half, before substitute Antony completed the turnaround for Erik ten Hag’s side 17 minutes from time.

The Red Devils held on for their first victory over Barca since the narrow 1-0 win in the Champions League semi-final second leg in April 2008.

Antony was the hero as Manchester United progressed to the Europa League last 16 thanks to a 2-1 win over Barcelona at Old Trafford that secured a 4-3 aggregate success.

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Robert Lewandowski put the Blaugrana ahead with an 18th-minute penalty following a pulsating 2-2 draw at Camp Nou last week.

But Fred equalised early in the second half, before substitute Antony completed the turnaround for Erik ten Hag’s side 17 minutes from time.

The Red Devils held on for their first victory over Barca since the narrow 1-0 win in the Champions League semi-final second leg in April 2008.

Casemiro released Bruno Fernandes in the third minute for the latter to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen during a bright start for United. 

But having almost been the hero at one end, Fernandes became the villain at the other when he hauled down Alejandro Balde in the penalty area, Lewandowski converting the subsequent spot-kick despite David de Gea’s best efforts.

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The United goalkeeper almost gifted Barca a second before half-time, his loose pass intercepted by Sergi Roberto, but Casemiro made vital blocks to deny him and Franck Kessie.

The hosts capitalised on their good fortune within two minutes of the restart, Fernandes feeding Fred, who drilled a low shot beyond Ter Stegen’s dive.

United carried the greater threat but were almost caught by a sucker punch, with De Gea showcasing wonderful reflexes to tip away Jules Kounde’s header.

Nevertheless, Ten Hag’s side deservedly completed the comeback.

The ball ricocheted to Antony, who neatly guided into the bottom-left corner, and a late Raphael Varane block to deny Lewandowski ensured the Brazilian’s strike was decisive.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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