Manchester United and Ajax advance to Europa League final

by BobbyT 0

Manchester United will meet Dutch giants Ajax in the Europa League final after both clubs advanced from their semifinal clashes on Thursday night.

United are just one win away from Champions League qualification after a 1-1 draw over Celta Vigo at Old Trafford to book their place in the Europa final 2-1 on aggregate.

Marouane Fellaini scored in the 17th minute to double United’s aggregate advantage, meeting Marcus Rashford’s excellent delivery at the far post to head in past Sergio Alvarez.

Rashford had an opportunity to effectively kill off the tie for United after 64 minutes, turning inside the box before finding some space, but his dinked effort was saved by Sergio Alvarez, who was then on hand to stop Fellaini at his near post shortly after.

It seemed United would ease to the finish line, but Facundo Roncaglia did manage to find the back of the net for the visitors five minutes from time, heading Theo Bongonda’s cross into the far corner to set up a tense finale.

However, United were able to hold on, even after Roncaglia and Eric Bailly were both sent off following a melee, and former Manchester City forward John Guidetti squandered a last-gasp chance to steal the tie on away goals.

Ajax’s big win from the first leg was just enough to see them past Lyon, who won the second leg 3-1 but fell a goal short of reaching the final as the Dutch club advanced 5-4 on aggregate.

Teenager Kasper Dolberg widened Ajax’s lead by chipping the keeper from a tight angle in the 27th minute, but Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in as many minutes just before the break to pull the French side back into it.

Rachid Ghezzal then lashed home with nine minutes to play to cut Ajax’s lead to a single goal, before a second yellow card to Ajax’s Nick Viergever made for a nervy finish.

And after Maxwel Cornet fired inches wide of the post, the hosts could not find the goal that would have sent the game to extra time.

A spot in the Champions League group stage will be on the line when the teams meet in Stockholm on May 24, with major implications for both clubs and their domestic leagues.

Winning the final is likely Man United’s best chance to qualify for the premier European competition, with Jose Mourinho’s side four points adrift of the Premier League top four with three games to play.

Ajax are already assured of at least a place in the Champions League third qualifying round with a top-two finish in the Eredivisie. But they trail Dutch leaders Feyenoord by a point with the season set to conclude on Sunday, so the Europa final will likely be important for advancing directly to the group stage.


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