United's Europa challenge over

2012-03-15 22:02

Bilbao - Manchester United's bid to win a first Europa League title came to a juddering halt on Thursday after they were beaten 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao in the second leg of their last-16 tie.

The result gave Marcelo Bielsa's effervescent young side a richly deserved 5-3 aggregate victory, following last week's equally impressive 3-2 win in the first leg at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's team were bidding to emulate Chelsea's stirring comeback in their Champions League game with Napoli on Wednesday, but they fell to a stunning volley from Fernando Llorente and a second-half strike by Oscar de Marcos.

United replied with a fine goal from Wayne Rooney in the 80th minute, but the visitors could not find the two goals they needed to take the game to extra time.

It was a chastening experience for last season's Champions League finalists, who will now have to plough all their resources into the defence of their Premier League crown, having stolen in front of title rivals Manchester City last weekend.

Bilbao, currently seventh in La Liga, will learn their quarter-final opponents in Friday's draw in Nyon.

United had been bewildered by the pace of Bilbao's attacks and the slickness of their passing in the first leg and the visitors were quickly hustled out of their stride at a raucous San Mames by the home side's aggressive pressing.

Bilbao carved the United defence apart in the 14th minute but when Iker Muniain's skidding shot bounced back off the left-hand post, de Marcos could only hoist the rebound high over the crossbar.

It was a warning that United failed to heed.

Four minutes later, Jon Aurtenetxe sent a 60-yard pass over Rio Ferdinand's head and Llorente met it with a magnificent volley from just inside the 18-yard box that flashed past David de Gea's outstretched right hand.

The goal left United needing to score three times to go through and moments later Ryan Giggs saw a goal-bound header deflected over the bar by a red and white shirt.

Llorente had been United's tormentor-in-chief at Old Trafford but an injury forced him to leave the fray in the 40th minute, with Gaizka Toquero taking his place.

The sight of Bilbao's talisman trudging from the field was a boon for the away side but Bielsa's men continued to attack with brio and Andoni Iraolo almost scored an exquisite solo goal early in the second half.

The right-back picked up the ball on the edge of the box and then tricked his way past Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand in turn, only to place the ball the wrong side of the right-hand post from 10 yards.

Toquero fired over shortly afterwards but in the 65th minute de Marcos put the result beyond doubt with a left-footed shot that flicked off Rafael to leave de Gea clutching at thin air.

To United's dismay, Bilbao refused to be satisfied, and after Markel Susaeta had side-footed wide from a Javi Martinez cut-back, Toquero headed onto the roof of the net from Iraola's right-wing cross.

Rooney finally gave the travelling support something to cheer about when he arced a fine strike into the top-right corner from 20 yards, while substitute Danny Welbeck also tested Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz with a low shot from distance.


  • Christopher Zoony De Croes - 2012-03-15 23:13

    and they 1st in the prem league??!!!! pathetic... spanish football is on another level...

      Paul - 2012-03-16 07:31

      no madrid and barca are on another level.

      Shivaskar - 2012-03-16 08:04

      EPL is physicality, SPL is quality. EPL title means little in my opinion. UCL or Europa is where you earn your crown. It was like the UCL 2011 final all over again. Like the commentator said, 'The man u fans may be thinking that Bilbao is Barcelona is disguise'. Some of the passing and skill moves were even better than what you could do in FIFA 12!

      Topsy - 2012-03-16 08:08

      hahahahahahaha - EPL??? let me see . . . 2012 in europe : arsenal, city, united, stoke all crash out at the earliest stages with chelsea bowing out soon to real/barca/bayern/milan. la liga is on a different level proven by the fact spain are world and european champs. and please don't say real and barca are the only teams - valencia, athletico, bilbao are all still in europe! arrogant english get what they deserve. epl fans i respect that you have your own brain and support the epl and their teams but you must be smoking something really rare to think epl is the best .BEST MARKETED YES! since the CL started proper in 1992, epl teams have only won it 3 times : 99, 05, 08 NUF SAID!

      Dhirshan - 2012-03-16 08:15

      didn't the whole of britain predict man city vs man united in the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL? and when that bombed an all manchester EUROPA final??? hahahahaha! worlds richest club and worlds most popular made to look like amateurs! FORZA BARCA!

  • Carol - 2012-03-16 00:22

    Ag shame! I'm surprised Ferguson didn't blame the ref and the linesmen as he usually does when his team loses.

  • Nick - 2012-03-16 06:55

    hahahahah knocked out the chappies cup by the 7th best spanish team. oh how the mighty have fallen. relegation for the mancs soon then?

  • Tim - 2012-03-16 08:55

    Sorry for the MU fans but no cigar.

  • elspeth.hassall - 2012-03-16 09:07

    Never are still "The Best" team forever... MAN. UNITED!!!!

      Dhirshan - 2012-03-16 09:23

      the best? wat are you smokin mate?

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