Manchester United vs Omonia Nicosia. UEFA Europa League Group E.
Match report as Man Utd leave it late to overcome heroics of Omonia Nicosia goalkeeper Francis Uzoho as Scott McTominay's dramatic winner keeps hopes of winning Europa League Group E alive
Friday 14 October 2022 09:49, UK
Scott McTominay struck deep in stoppage time as Manchester United kept their hopes of winning their Europa League group alive with a late 1-0 win over Omonia Nicosia.
Omonia arrived in Manchester having lost five of their last seven matches, including last Thursday's 3-2 defeat to United, but produced a defiant, heroic stand, epitomised by inspired goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, as Neil Lennon's side came within seconds of leaving Old Trafford with the unlikeliest of points.
Having seen Uzoho thwart efforts from Marcus Rashford, Antony and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Casemiro rattle the crossbar, United erased a frustrating evening in front of goal in the 93rd minute when McTominay finally found the breakthrough with their 34th attempt on goal.
"I said well done [to Uzoho]. He had many, many saves," Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag said afterwards. "He kept them in the game."
United stay second in Europa League Group E, three points behind leaders Real Sociedad, but victory in their final two matches can still see them progress into the round-of-16 as group winners without having to face a side demoted from the Champions League in a play-off.
Man Utd: De Gea (6), Dalot (6), Lindelof (6), Martinez (6), Malacia (6), Casemiro (6), Fred (5), Antony (5), Fernandes (7), Rashford (6), Ronaldo (5).
Subs: Eriksen (6), Shaw (6), Sancho (7), McTominay (8).
Omonia Nicosia: Uzoho (9), Matthews (6), Lang (6), Miletic (6), Yuste (7), Kitsos (6), Panayiotou (6), Cassama (5), Charalampous (5), Bruno (6), Kakoulli (5).
Subs: Psaltis (6), Loizou (5), Papoulis (5), Ansarifard (5), Diskerud (n/a).
Man of the match: Francis Uzoho.
United looked to extinguish any hope Omonia had of becoming the first Cypriot team to win away in England in Europe but were left with a familiar sense of frustration after a fruitless first-half barrage.
Inspired goalkeeper Uzoho singlehandedly thwarted Rashford, United's brightest attacking spark, from breaking the deadlock inside two minutes and repeated the feat midway through the half to tip the forward's low shot around the post.
Casemiro thundered an effort against the crossbar after the half-hour mark and, after Fred squandered a glorious headed opportunity after being found by Antony's in-swinging cross, United's profligacy nearly came back to haunt them.
Omonia dangerman Bruno Felipe raced away from Victor Lindelof as half-time approached but, instead of squaring to Andronikos Kakoullis to tap in, he went alone and blazed wildly over the goal, with United counting themselves fortunate to go into the break level after dominating the half.
The second half followed the pattern of the first, with Uzoho's performance reaching even greater heights with two double saves in quick succession denying Antony, Rashford, Fred and Ronaldo within two minutes of the restart.
Rashford, who would end the game with 10 shots without scoring, and Bruno Fernandes both squandered chances as frustration built inside Old Trafford, and when Erik ten Hag's final substitute, McTominay, blazed over in the final minute of normal time, United's challenge looked to have faded.
But, to their credit, United were rewarded for their relentless pressure with McTominay bringing the ball under control in the area and rifling a low shot past Uzoho to break Omonia hearts and send Old Trafford into raptures.
Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag: "[Our] performance until the box was good but the finishing was not that good. Let's hope we saved the goals for the coming week.
"In every game except against Brentford we score. In this team there's a lot of creativity and scoring capabilities. Sometimes you have a night you will not succeed and some players today was the night but what the good thing is the team keep going, they don't give up, keep believing [they will] score and in the end they get rewarded. That's the way you have to do it.
"I'm really happy [a sub has scored for a fourth game in a row]. It tells you something about the spirit in the squad, they understand it's not about 11 players, you have to do it, and sometimes it works like that. When you believe in it, the opponent is getting tired, the subs can have an impact when they have the right attitude, the focus to be direct, are fresh and score.
"It's not about me. When you bring in McTominay you know he can arrive there but it's not a typical scorer who will score 20 goals. But when you bring Rashford behind and a new combination on the left with Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho, we create energy, they bring tempo on that wide left area, that's good to see and it can be your sub will score."
Omonia boss Neil Lennon praised the heroics of his squad in particular his goalkeeper Uzoho but admitted he was a little regretful that his side weren't better in possession to help them hold on for a historic result.
He told BT Sport: "It would have been the greatest result in the club's history. We defended heroically. I was frustrated that we didn't keep the ball in the final third better. There was wave after wave of attack.
"Players were resilient and strong. My goalkeeper was incredible. A few will come out with a lot of glory. I'm really proud. But at this level you need to keep the ball better.
"He really stood up to the challenge tonight. He's taken his chance brilliantly. That performance was the best of his career. He may never better it."
Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
There was a clear feeling of frustration around Old Trafford as the clock ticked past 90 minutes. Some fans had already headed for the exits. Others were still debating the wisdom of sending on Scott McTominay for Casemiro when Manchester United desperately needed a goal.
But the Scot was the surprise match winner deep into injury-time, finally finding a way past the inspired Francis Uzoho in the Omonia Nicosia goal. After banging at the door all night, United finally got in.
Snatching victory against a side sixth in the Cypriot league is hardly something to shout about - but afterwards Erik ten Hag was quietly satisfied with his team's display. "I'm not concerned," he said when asked about only scoring the solitary goal.
Yes, the finishing could have been sharper, he admitted. But thirty-four shots at goal, against a side defending deep and compact all night underlined for him his side's perseverance and continuous creativity to try to find a way through. And in the end, for the fourth game in a row, a sub scored for United. Further evidence for him of a growing unity and squad mentality.
A draw would have been far from ideal. Embarrassing in the eyes of some. But the win gives United hope of topping their Europa League group. Again, it is a long way from the illustrious achievements of previous United teams to grace this stadium but progress in this competition would be another step forwards for Ten Hag's group.
The defeat to Manchester City was a wake-up call of how far United are away from the top of English football right now. It's going to be a long road back. Perspective and patience will be key. Ten Hag and United needed both on Thursday night but got what they needed in the end.
Manchester United face Newcastle at home in the Premier League on Sunday at 2pm, before hosting Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday at 8.15pm.
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