Anthony Elanga’s late strike rescues a draw for Manchester United against Atletico Madrid

Anthony Elanga’s late strike rescues a draw for Manchester United against Atletico Madrid

Manchester United were spared their blushes on Wednesday night at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid as Anthony Elanga salvaged a draw for the visitors in the final ten minutes after making the difference off the bench in the Champions League Round of 16 against Atletico Madrid. Elanga’s 80th-minute strike cancelled out Joao Felix’s excellent first-half header to give United the edge heading into the return leg in Manchester in three weeks.

However, while United were able to walk away with a draw, it was far from the desired performance from the Red Devils as Ralf Rangnick’s side were second-best to Atletico for the majority of the tie. Despite dominating possession across the 90 minutes, United were sloppy on the ball and failed to create many clear-cut chances, mustering just seven shots throughout the game.

Ralf Rangnick curiously opted to field central defender Victor Lindelof at right-back, and the move backfired instantly as Atletico opened the scoring inside the first seven minutes after the Swedish defender failed to stop Renan Lodi’s inviting cross. The Brazilian full-back received ample time and space to send his delivery into the box, and his pass was emphatically converted by a flying Joao Felix, who breezed past United defenders Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane to launch a header into the net off the post.

United continued to struggle throughout the first half and were lucky to enter the break with only a 1-0 deficit after Simone Vrsaljko headed onto the crossbar on the stroke of half-time. The Red Devils failed to register a single touch in the Atletico box throughout the first period, but United did improve in the second half upon the introduction of substitutes Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Alex Telles and Anthony Elanga.

Elanga scored the game-clinching fourth goal against Leeds United over the weekend off the bench, and the 19-year-old made the difference as a substitute once again after scoring with his first touch of the match in the 79th minute. The young forward was put through on goal by an excellent through ball by Bruno Fernandes, and Elanga had the composure to pull the trigger early and slot it past Jan Oblak in goal with a tidy first-time finish into the bottom corner.

Elanga’s goal was the only moment of real quality United produced throughout the match, and the visitors could be considered lucky to come away with a draw as substitute Antoine Griezmann struck the crossbar in the final five minutes, much to the frustration of manager Diego Simeone.

With the away goals rule abolished from this season onward, United stand as firm favourites to reach the quarter-finals due to the home advantage. However, if Ralf Rangnick’s side expects to secure the victory at Old Trafford next month, they will need to put in a much better performance than this one.