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Tournament favorite Manchester City and Manchester United opened the Europa League round of 16 with losses as all three remaining Spanish teams won.
Alexandre Xandao’s goal gave Sporting Lisbon a 1-0 home win last night over Manchester City, the bookmakers’ favorite to win European soccer’s second-tier club competition. Athletic Bilbao came from behind to upset Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford.
“We were well beaten,” United manager Alex Ferguson told Channel 5. “I have to say they were the better team.”
Atletico Madrid beat Besiktas 3-1 and Valencia defeated PSV Eindhoven 4-2 to join Athletic as Spanish winners. Olympiacos, FC Twente and AZ Alkmaar also won, while Standard Liege and Hannover tied 2-2. The return matches in the two-game series will be played March 15, with the quarterfinal draw the following day.
Manchester United’s home struggles in Europe continued as Athletic rallied for the win. The Red Devils have won one of their five Champions League and Europa League games at Old Trafford this season and suffered back-to-back home European losses for the first time since 1996.
Wayne Rooney put United ahead in the 22nd minute and Fernando Llorente tied the score just before halftime. Oscar de Marcos put Athletic in front in the 72nd minute and teenage forward Iker Muniain made it 3-1 in the 90th.
Rooney then scored with a penalty kick in stoppage time to prevent United from slipping to its first European home loss by more than a one goal.
“We showed we can make chances against them, but obviously we have to defend better,” Ferguson added.
Sporting took the lead in Portugal in the 51st minute as central defender Xandao scored with a backheel off a rebound of his own shot after City goalkeeper Joe Hart knocked away Matias Fernandez’s free kick.
Xandao preserved his team’s advantage over the Premier League leader by blocking Sergio Aguero’s goalbound chip over goalkeeper Rui Patricio in the final minute.
“We did not play well, we had chances to score but didn’t take them,” City manager Roberto Mancini said on the team’s website. “It will be a different game in Manchester.”
Atletico Madrid got two goals from Eduardo Salvio and one from Adrian Lopez for the home win over Besiktas. Roberto Soldado scored twice and Victor Ruiz and Pablo Piatti one each to lead Valencia over PSV Eindhoven.
Second-half scores from Maarten Martens and Erik Falkenburg, both assisted by U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, gave AZ Alkmaar a 2-0 home win over Udinese, while David Fuster’s goal lifted Olympiacos past Metalist Kharkiv 1-0 in Ukraine.
Luuk de Jong’s second-half penalty gave FC Twente a 1-0 home win over 10-man Schalke. The spot-kick came after Joel Matip received a red card for taking down de Jong.
Mame Diouf’s goal in the 56th minute give Hannover the away draw with Standard Liege. Lars Stindl scored with a penalty for Hannover, while Yoni Buyens and Mohamed Tchite got Standard’s goals.
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