Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty in extra time to lift Manchester United past FC Copenhagen 1-0 and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League.
The Portuguese playmaker made no mistake from the spot in the 95nd minute to break the deadlock after Anthony Martial had been fouled inside the box.
The result provides a bit of relief for United supporters who seemingly were more in tune with the day’s ongoing transfer saga involving Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.
United had been frustrated all night by a resilient Copenhagen side during the first 90 minutes, mainly in part due to two scoring attempts that had been fended off by the woodwork.
Mason Greenwood’s low shot in the 57th minute seemed bound for the back of the net only to hit the post, with Marcus Rashford’s rebound tap-in overruled for being offside.
The sticks aided the Danish side again five minutes later when Fernandes’ dipping effort beat keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson but bounced off the left post.
However, Januaray signing Fernandes would not be denied in extra minutes as United took their 21st penalty (converting 17) of the season across all competitions.
‘It’s the third time this season we have been to a semi-final, so we are delighted to get through,’ United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the match. ‘We deserved it, their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times.
‘It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us. They were well organised with a gameplan, I knew they would be hard to break down so we had to be patient. We knew we would get chances, our attackers will always create chances.’
Fernandes now leads the Europa League scorers list with seven goals, and is the joint top-scorer for United alongside Martial on 11 goals (all competitions).
‘He knows keepers will wait for him to do the jump. He practises both of them [run-ups] and he practises both sides, so he’s got them sorted,’ Solskjaer added on Fernandes’ penalty-taking abilities.
The scoreline soured Johnsson’s excellent night in the net for Copenhagen, whose 13 saves were the joint most in a single game since the Europa League started in 2009.
United, winners of the 2017 Europa League, will take on the winners of Wednesday’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sevilla FC in the semi-final round on 6 August in Cologne.
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