Manchester United gave up a two-goal lead in a breathless 4-3 Champions League loss to FC Copenhagen on Wednesday that turned after Marcus Rashford was shown a controversial red card following a brace by young United striker Rasmus Hojlund.
The loss was a calamitous setback in United’s hopes for last-16 qualification with Erik ten Hag’s side fourth in Group A on three points with two group games still to play. Copenhagen are one point better off in second place.
“The red card changes everything,” a beleaguered Ten Hag told TNT Sports. “Then it becomes a different game. I have seen a lot of positives from that game but in the end we have lost some focus.
“I think the (Rashford red) was a very harsh decision,” he added.
United have two tough games to finish the group stage, at third-placed Galatasaray, who have four points, on Nov. 29 and at home against Bayern Munich, who have won all four group matches to book their spot in the last 16, on Dec. 12.
Hojlund fired United to a brilliant start in a roller-coaster first half, scoring his first when the game was just 171 seconds old by tucking in Scott McTominay’s pass from close range.
The 20-year-old netted again against his former club in the 28th minute after a Kamil Grabara save sent the ball spinning practically to his feet.
The tide turned when Rashford was sent off in the 42nd minute for planting his foot on the ankle of Elias Jelert to protect the ball. The moment breathed new life into the home side and Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back three minutes later.
“We controlled the game until the red card. That changed the game,” Hojlund told TNT Sports. “I think we switched off a little bit. We didn’t think we would play with one man down.
“It gave them belief, I know how the crowd can help the team out. It gave them a big boost.”
There was more misery to come as Copenhagen were awarded a penalty right before halftime after Harry Maguire’s handball, and Diogo Goncalves slotted it past Andre Onana.
United briefly regained the lead when VAR awarded them a penalty for a handball which Bruno Fernandes calmly converted.
But they imploded in the final few minutes giving up two goals, in the 83rd when Lukas Lerager sprinted in to meet Rasmus Falk’s cross and four minutes later when 17-year-old substitute Roony Bardghji fired home.
As the teams walked onto the pitch at Parken Stadium, Copenhagen fans unveiled a tifo that read “Your Theatre of Nightmares,” a play on Old Trafford’s nickname as the Theatre of Dreams and an apt description on Wednesday.
United became the first side to score two goals, have a player sent off, and concede a penalty in the first half of a Champions League match since Bayern Munich against Man City in November 2014.
The night marked the first Champions League loss for United in which they led by two or more goals. It was their first defeat after taking a two-goal lead in all competitions since a 5-3 loss to Leicester City in September 2014.
The defeat spoiled a feel-good return to Copenhagen for Hojlund, who was born in the Danish capital and whose younger brothers Emil and Oscar both play for Copenhagen.
Arsenal returns to winning ways with easy win against Sevilla
Arsenal returned to winning ways with a routine 2-0 defeat of Sevilla to take a big step towards qualification for the Champions League knockout rounds on Wednesday.
Successive defeats in the League Cup and Premier League had halted Arsenal‘s momentum but goals by Leandro Trossard and Bukayo Saka cemented their place as leaders of Group B.
Trossard tapped home in the 29th minute to put Mikel Arteta’s side in front and Saka underlined Arsenal‘s superiority with a superb effort midway through the second half.
Europa League champions Sevilla were desperately disappointing and managed only one shot on target, with the last kick of the game, as their last–16 hopes receded.
The only blemish on an otherwise stress-free night for Arsenal was the sight of Saka, who set up Trossard’s goal, hobbling off late on after falling awkwardly.
Arsenal strengthened their position at the top of Group B with nine points from four games and would have qualified had Lens beaten PSV Eindhoven but the French club lost 1-0.
Lens and PSV have five points while winless Sevilla are bottom with two points.
After the fall-out from Arsenal‘s controversial Premier League defeat at Newcastle United at the weekend, which sparked an emotional Arteta outburst, what the side needed was a routine night with no VAR drama and compliant opposition.
Arsenal got their wish as the technology that caused Arteta’s angst at Newcastle was redundant and Sevilla offered virtually nothing to cause alarm.
“We knew we had to get three points and we did it,” Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice said. “After the upset in the (League) cup last week and then at the weekend, the manager made it clear before the game a club like this can’t be losing three games in a row.”
Sevilla have endured a disappointing start to the La Liga season and the appointment of former Uruguay national Diego Alonso a month ago has hardly revived their fortunes.
They had managed only one win in his first five matches since he replaced Jose Luis Mendilibar — against lowly Quintanar in the Copa del Rey — and they never looked like pulling off a surprise victory in north London.
Arsenal were efficient rather than spectacular but dominated from the first whistle and Kai Havertz should have give them the lead inside two minutes but headed wide.
The hosts took the lead when Jorginho, captain for the night in place of the injured Martin Odegaard, released Saka down the right and he slid a pass across for Trossard to score his second Champions League goal of the campaign.
Havertz twice went close to scoring after the break, having one goalbound shot deflected away and firing another effort agonisingly wide of the far post.
Saka eventually gave Arsenal breathing space with a superb effort, racing on to Gabriel Martinelli’s pass down the right and then cutting back inside to place a left-foot shot past visiting keeper Marko Dmitrovic.
Arsenal keeper David Raya could have had the night off, such was his lack of involvement in the game, with his only save coming in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Mariano Diaz.
UEFA Champions League results
Wednesday, November 8th
Arsenal 2 Sevilla 0
Bayern 2 Galatasaray 1
Copenhagen 4 Man Utd 3
PSV 1 Lens 0
Real Madrid 3 SC Braga 0
Red Bull Salzburg 0 Inter 1
Napoli 1 Union Berlin 1
Real Sociedad 3 Benfica 1