Man Utd to face Tranmere Rovers as Watford suffer FA Cup upset

By Sports Desk January 23, 2020

Manchester United will face Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday after the League One side defeated Watford 2-1.

With their initial replay called off due to a waterlogged pitch, Tranmere - who came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Vicarage Road - and Watford met at Prenton Park on Thursday - just two days after the Hornets' Premier League defeat to Aston Villa.

Nigel Pearson subsequently made wholesale changes and, though Kaylen Hinds' 68th-minute effort cancelled out Emmanuel Monthe's first-half opener, Watford succumbed in extra-time.

Substitute Paul Mullin, who scored a late spot-kick in the first meeting between the sides, was Tranmere's hero - heading in the winner to set up a mouth-watering tie with 12-time winners United.

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    Robin van Persie described Bruno Fernandes as "a joy to watch" despite the midfielder playing just 15 minutes of Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Club Brugge.

    An away goal from Anthony Martial cancelled out Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis' opener in Belgium to give United a slight edge in the Europa League last-32 tie.

    Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made six changes to his starting line-up from the 2-0 Premier League win at Chelsea just three days ago, with January signing Fernandes one of those to drop to the bench.

    United's midfield looked laboured in tricky conditions until Fred came on for Andreas Pereira after 71 minutes, and once Fernandes was introduced for Diogo Dalot 10 minutes later, the Red Devils suddenly had the game under control.

    Despite playing just nine minutes of the 90 and six of stoppage time, Fernandes attempted more shots (four) than any of his team-mates while completing 100 per cent of his passes.

    Former United striker Van Persie was particularly impressed with the Portugal international, who joined from Sporting CP last month for an initial €55million fee.

    "He was unbelievable," Van Persie said in his role as a pundit on BT Sport. "With top players, you can tell straight away that he has something. He was silky on the ball and a joy to watch."

    United went behind when Simon Mignolet's goal kick ran through to Dennis, who beat Dalot and Brandon Williams to the ball before lobbing Sergio Romero, who had rushed far from his goal.

    Brugge gifted United their equaliser, though, with Brandon Mechele hesitating after Maxim De Cuyper's throw-in, allowing Martial to surge forward and score his 14th goal of the season.

    Juan Mata was frustrated not to win the match but accepted United did not do enough early in the contest.

    "We wanted to win," he told MUTV. "In the second half, we pressed better and we played more time in their half and had chances to maybe score the second.

    "But they started well. They play good with the ball and they defend very compact without the ball, they put a lot of bodies in the back and we couldn't find the spaces in the first half.

    "They scored a goal we shouldn't concede; we scored a goal from their mistake. We wanted to win. Obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we wanted to win."

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    Eriksen, who signed for the Serie A club in January, scored his first goal for Inter in Thursday's 2-0 Europa League last-32 win away at Ludogorets.

    The Denmark international opened the scoring with a fine strike and also hit the crossbar with a powerful drive before Romelu Lukaku's late penalty put the Nerazzurri in complete control ahead of next week's second leg in Milan.

    However, Conte feels there is a lot more to come from Eriksen.

    "I'm happy for him, the goal always gives confidence," Conte told Sky Sport Italia after Inter bounced back from successive domestic defeats in Bulgaria.

    "Christian just needs to work to find the right physical condition, to find the brilliance of his best moments at Tottenham.

    "He can do even more than what he showed us today, but we are very happy because we know what he can give us."

    Inter were again without goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, although deputy Daniele Padelli was completely untested as Ludogorets mustered only a single shot.

    "It is a situation that we monitor day by day," Conte said of Handanovic, who has a hand injury.

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    Christian Eriksen's first goal for Inter helped Antonio Conte's men earn a battling 2-0 away win against Ludogorets in the opening leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

    The Serie A side were not at their best at Ludogorets Arena on Thursday but scored the opener from the best move of the match, Eriksen curling home from the edge of the box.

    January signing Eriksen hit the crossbar from distance and Romelu Lukaku's late penalty confirmed a victory for the Nerazzurri that saw them bounce back from successive domestic defeats.

    Inter, who began with Lukaku on the bench, struggled to impose themselves in the opening exchanges but Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev had to make a smart stop to keep out Cristiano Biraghi's volley in the 25th minute.

    The upright kept out Alexis Sanchez's clever flick after the restart, then Lautaro Martinez lashed a long-range strike narrowly over the crossbar as Inter increased the tempo.

    Iliev made another fine save to turn away Eriksen's bouncing 20-yard volley, but the goalkeeper could do nothing about Inter's first goal in the 71st minute.

    Sanchez and substitute Lukaku were involved in patient passing in the build-up, with Eriksen sweeping an excellent finish out of Iliev's reach.

    It was almost 2-0 moments later as Eriksen's thumping drive beat Iliev but not the woodwork, Lukaku's arrival having given Ludogorets more to think about in defence.

    Ludogorets, who were without their star striker Claudiu Keseru due to injury, failed to record a shot on target and face an uphill battle at San Siro next week after Lukaku converted from 12 yards in added time following Anicet Andrianantenaina's handball.


    What does it mean? Inter get the job done

    After consecutive defeats in the Coppa Italia and in Serie A to Napoli and Lazio respectively, Inter again found it difficult to produce their best football but they ground out a much-needed win. It is doubtful whether Conte values Europa League success over the Scudetto, though.

    Iliev unlucky to miss out on clean sheet

    Ludogorets had their backs against the wall for much of the game and relied on goalkeeper Iliev to keep them in the tie. He made a handful of excellent stops in a superb individual showing.

    Martinez unable to justify Messi praise

    Labelled "spectacular" by Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi in the build-up to the game, reported Barcelona target Martinez made very little impact before he was replaced by regular strike partner Lukaku.

    What's next?

    Ahead of next week's second leg, Inter host Sampdoria on Sunday while Bulgarian league leaders Ludogorets are away to Etar on the same day.

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