In a tweet posted on the day of this Europa League group’s draw, Omonia Nicosia’s backup goalkeeper Francis Uzoho vowed to “definitely die for this post” should he somehow get the chance to play at the club’s home ground, the he has since supported a boy. He got that chance and pretty much did everything in his power to ward off Manchester United. He did it for 93 minutes. He spent the 94th desperately on his back.
Scott McTominay’s winner after his side’s 34th shot at Uzoho’s goal prevented the seventh-best side in Cyprus from clinching a historic point at Old Trafford last season. It averted one of the more ignominious results in United’s European history and almost sent Erik ten Hag’s side into the knockout stages. A point at home against Sheriff Tiraspol in two weeks is enough to progress.
This was a long night for United, one that saw Ten Hag players visibly despair as time went on. Countless chances went begging. For all of Uzoho’s brilliance, his goalie also lived an enchanting life at times. Omonia’s resistance was finally broken by a clever turn from substitute Jadon Sancho in a cameo that could reignite his faltering Old Trafford career and McTominay’s drive past the poor keeper.
Neil Lennon almost added another famous European result to his track record to rival Celtic’s 2-1 win over Barcelona just over a decade ago. Considering the aching chasm between these two clubs, the magnitude of the accomplishment might have been even greater. Instead, he and a traveling support of many thousands return to the Cypriot capital with pride but no points.
Ten Hag made two changes to the line-up that Omonia defeated in the Cypriot capital last week. The ubiquitous Christian Eriksen got a well-deserved rest while Marcus Rashford came on from the suddenly disgraced Sancho. Lennon, meanwhile, was without his man of the match from a week earlier, first-choice goalkeeper Fabiano, who was out with a shoulder injury. Given that, United would have hoped not to go into the break scoreless.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Rashford was by far United’s liveliest player before the break and gradually got into a running battle with Uzoho. The Nigeria international was there from the start, knocking over an early curl attempt, then fending off Rashford after a turnover from Fred in midfield in a one-on-one, and minutes later pushed another Rashford attempt around the post.
Casemiro defeated Uzoho only for his ram hammer to bounce off the bar. United were just as dominant as they were in Nicosia but just as vulnerable to a rare counterattack. It came just before the break as Bruno passed Diogo Dalot and headed for David de Gea’s goal. The angle was too narrow for a shot. A square pass to the uncovered Andronikos Kakoulli was announced. Bruno chose the former rather than the latter, much to the frustration of thousands of traveling supporters.
Lennon shared that frustration and cut an even angrier figure a minute later when he felt United should have been reduced to 10 men. Lisandro Martinez hit Kakoulli to obliterate a breakaway from a stray Dalot backpass, perhaps cynically. Referee Jerome Brisard didn’t like that and waved play on. Despite United’s possession and the persistent spice of Uzoho’s goal, it was a reminder that last season’s Cypriot Cup winners only had to get lucky once.
Uzoho returned to his exploits within 15 seconds of the restart, fending off both Antony and Rashford with an instinctive double save. Another followed shortly after, beating off Fred’s try and smothering the ball at Ronaldo’s feet before he could drill in from close range. This threatened to be a career-defining night. Uzoho, who was blamed for Nigeria failing to reach the World Cup after a costly mistake in the play-off against Ghana earlier this year, now almost single-handedly kept United in check.
United had to resort to route one. A long, hopeful punt in top field caught Omonia’s defense completely off guard, allowing Rashford to shoot unhindered on goal. Even Uzoho seemed vulnerable now, but the target was wild and wide when it was easier to hit the target. Changes followed: first Sancho and Luke Shaw were introduced, then Eriksen. Moreto Cassama, Omonia midfielder, may have been lucky to escape being sent off after a reckless tackle on Casemiro.
However, United should not have to be a man ready to meet previous opponents of Omonia’s caliber, whatever character Lennon’s side displayed. Frustration boiled over as McTominay fired a shot high into the dying embers. His next would be drilled, low hard and – finally – past Uzoho. Sancho’s trickery, aided by Shaw’s dummy run, created space for the cutback and through a mass of bodies, McTominay finished. Uzoho took a moment, finally got to his feet and fell back at the sound of the final whistle. A heroic performance deserved better, but to Ten Hag’s relief, United found a way.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/manchester-united-omonia-result-europa-league-2022-b2202435.html Result Manchester United vs. Omonia: Europa League Score, Goals, Report