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United avoid shock defeat in Nicosia

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Omonia gave Premier League superstars Manchester United a fright, needing super-sub Marcus Rashford to spark a comeback to avoid a shock defeat in Nicosia in the Europa League.

Manchester United avoided an embarrassing defeat to Omonia Nicosia courtesy of a second-half recovery to win 3-2 after being behind at the break.

Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon’s side had taken the lead with a goal by Iranian international striker Karim Ansarifard after a quick counter following a Manchester United corner on 34 minutes.

Omonia’s goal came as United had bossed the game in the first half-hour but wasted good opportunities while keeper Fabiano made key saves.

Fabiano denied Antony Santos a spectacular goal and got down smartly to save a Cristiano Ronaldo shot in the first half.

But after 34 minutes, Jadon Sancho put Tyrell Malacia in trouble following a United corner, and a slip from the full-back allowed the hosts to break forward with Bruno Felipe stealing the ball.

Omonia had a three-on-one situation, and Bruno slipped the ball to Ansarifard, who took a touch before smashing the ball into the top corner of David de Gea’s net.

Omonia held on to their lead until half time spurred on by a packed GSP stadium.

Reds coach Erik ten Hag, who had started the game with a strong side, including superstar Ronaldo, Casemiro and Eriksen, pulled Sancho and Malacia, throwing in Rashford and Luke Shaw at the start of the second half.

Rashford took only eight minutes to bring the game level before fellow substitute Anthony Martial put the visitors in front ten minutes later.

Super-sub Rashford then produced a classy flick to find fellow substitute Martial in space. The Frenchman showed his confidence by getting his shot away quickly and finding the bottom corner.

Rashford scored another goal late in the game; however, Omonia sub Nicolas Panayiotou scored one minute later to create a nervy end for the visitors.

Ronaldo looked desperate to impress, but his 700th career goal evaded him on a frustrating night.

United are now second in Europa League’s E Group, with six points, three clear from Moldavian Sheriff Tiraspol, who are third.

Omonia is last with no points, while the group is led by Spanish Real Sociedad, who has nine points after three games.

Cyprus had another two teams playing Europe on Thursday night, with AEK Larnaca facing Turkish side Fenerbahce.

AEK had a hard task playing away at Fenerbahce’s home Sukru Saracoglu stadium in front of 50,000 Turkish supporters who created a heated atmosphere.

AEK put up a fight despite falling behind on 26 minutes from a goal by former Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi. Fenerbahce’s second came ten minutes from time with an own goal by Rafail Mamas.

AEK are third in their group with three points, four behind leaders Fenerbahce and Rennes.

Apollon Limassol also had a difficult away game, playing Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. However, the Limassol team put up a strong fight as they came back twice after falling behind 1-0 and 2-1.

However, a goal by Swedish international Jesper Karlsson on 85 minutes gave Alkmaar the win and the three points.

Apollon are last in their group with just one point in three games.