Manchester United’s Champions League hopes were killed off with a dramatic late double by Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder.
Within six minutes of appearing off the bench, Frenchman Ben Yedder had scored twice to stun Old Trafford and end hopes of progression to the quarter-finals for Jose Mourinho’s side. Not even a late goal from Romelu Lukaku could fire a recovery for the Reds in front of the heartbroken home faithful.
It had been four years since the nerve-shredding tension of Champions League football at Old Trafford and this was as stressful as ever. At this last-16 stage in 2014 United recovered from a dismal night in Athens after David Moyes’ side lost to Olympiakos. By virtue of a sensational Robin van Persie hat-trick, the Reds turned the tie around 3-2 on aggregate.
United were in a far more comfortable situation this time following the 0-0 stalemate in the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville last month. But as Champions League experts had warned it wasn’t always as good a result to bring back to England as you would imagine. The fact Sevilla could afford a score draw on the night in Manchester meant the electric atmosphere was under-pinned by a certain amount of stress.
The anxiety could have been relieved in the opening seconds as Romelu Lukaku made a bright and dangerous start. He used his power to hold off defender Simon Kjaer. The Belgian laid off to Jesse Lingard, went for the one-two but blast his shot into the East Stand.
Sevilla were quick to get over the scare and a header from Joaquin Correa and a shot from Franco Vazquez were warnings to United. Montella’s side were proving they wouldn’t shrink in the cauldron and Luis Muriel dragged a shot just wide in the 27th minute as they increased their shots stats.
Sevilla are fifth in La Liga and way off the title race dominated by Barcelona, but they’ve got quality and Old Trafford sensed something might be brewing if United didn’t respond. It came down to Marouane Fellaini to unsettle the visitors with a stinging left foot shot in the 38th minute that keeper Sergio Rico kept pawed away for a corner.
United 1 Sevilla 2 Gallery
The story of a dramatic Champions League night in 30 images.
As every minute passed the anxiety levels stepped up another notch as a classic knockout match unfolded with both sides knowing they needed a goal. To that end manager Mourinho brought on Paul Pogba for Fellaini on the hour to give the Reds more thrust in the engine room. United were struggling to find the fluency or fervour of the Liverpool win and paid the price in the 73rd minute.
Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder had only been on for a minute when a United move broke down and the Spaniards slickly went forward to set up the striker. David De Gea had been the hero of the first leg but couldn’t keep out the low drive.
It left United with 18 minutes to find two goals. Juan Mata and Anthony Martial were immediately brought on but before they could get into the match Ben Yedder had done it again as his close-range header spun over the line despite De Gea's attempt to keep it out.
There was an inevitable spirited effort by United to stage a possible fairytale late climax when Lukaku blasted in from close range. But the task set by Ben Yedder proved too much for Mourinho's men and the quest for a quarter-final place was over.
United: De Gea; Valencia (c) (Mata 77), Bailly, Smalling, Young; Matic, Fellaini (Pogba 60); Lingard (Martial 77), Alexis, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs not used: Romero (GK), Lindelof, Darmian, McTominay.
Sevilla: Sergio Rico; Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero (c); N'Zonzi, Banega; Sarabia, Vazquez (Pizarro 87), Correa (Geis 89); Luis Muriel (Ben Yedder 72). Subs not used: Soria (GK), Arana, Pareja, Nolito.
Booked: Banega, Correa, Sarabia
WHAT MOURINHO SAID
“I think the first goal will always be important in this match – not just because of the first leg result but also because of the profile of the match. We tried since the first minute to be aggressive and to be intense and I could find some similarities between this game and the beginning against Liverpool last weekend. But then, we didn’t score and Sevilla progressively kept the ball, they were quite confident having the ball and hiding the ball from us and controlling the game well. In spite of that, we didn’t have problems in the first half. In the second half, we had good chances to score. We had good and dangerous approaches to their box. They scored a goal and from that moment everything became much more emotional and much more difficult and the second goal made it almost impossible.”
It is knockout football at Old Trafford again as United face Brighton in the FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday night (17 March) with kick-off at 19:45 GMT. A repeat of November's 1-0 league win over Chris Hughton's side would do nicely.