October 24, 2019 / 7:55 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Soccer-Martial on the spot to end Man United away-day blues

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By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Manchester United ground out an unconvincing 1-0 win at Partizan Belgrade in a tense Europa League Group L clash on Thursday as Anthony Martial’s 43rd-minute penalty secured their first away victory since March.

The match was played under tight security amid fears of crowd trouble but it produced a cracking atmosphere as Partizan coach Savo Milosevic’s appeals to home fans to refrain from offensive chants proved successful.

United, languishing 14th in the Premier League, top the group on seven points from three games, two ahead of Dutch side AZ Alkmaar who thrashed Kazakhstan’s Astana 6-0. Partizan have four points and Astana none.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was happy with United’s first away win in 12 games in all competitions and their first away goal since August, but not with his team’s performance.

“We need to learn when to get the second goal and when to get the third,” he told a news conference.

“Today we had loads of opportunities to make sure we were in a comfortable lead but we didn’t play the pass forward.”

Solskjaer singled out 19-year-old left back Brandon Williams and praised the home fans, who generated an electrifying atmosphere in the cauldron of Partizan’s stadium.

“Brandon has got a great attitude and the boy is going to be a top player,” Solskjaer said.

“For me Brandon was man of the match. He’s been fantastic the few games he’s played and the boy has no fear. He is as brave as a lion and today he got us the win,” the Norwegian added.

“The crowd was unbelievable. They should be very proud of their team and the team should be very proud of the crowd. It was an excellent atmosphere.”

The first two chances fell to United as Williams glanced a close-range header wide at the far post after Juan Mata floated in a free kick before Jesse Lingard hit the post as he picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area.

FIERCE SHOT

Partizan striker Umar Sadiq rattled the woodwork with a fierce shot from 25 metres and Japanese winger Takuma Asano fired just wide as the home side came to life, only to fall behind just before halftime.

Williams was fouled by Nemanja Miletic as he raced down the left flank and Martial coolly converted the spot-kick when he sent Partizan keeper Vladimir Stojkovic the wrong way.

Partizan came out with renewed purpose after the break and Bebras Natcho fired inches wide from a free kick before Seydouba Soumah forced a good save from Sergio Romero following a dazzling solo run through the middle.

The home side had two penalty claims waved away by Spanish referee Xavier Fernandez midway through the second half and United were forced to defend in numbers as Partizan threw men forward in search of an equaliser.

Roared on by their fervent fans, the Serbian side launched a late onslaught and Romero rescued United in the 83rd minute when he kept out Asano’s close-range header with a superb reflex save.

Four minutes from time, Natcho shot narrowly over the bar from 20 metres as the decibel levels in the terraces reached fever pitch and United held on desperately in stoppage time to delight around 2,000 away fans in the Serbian capital.

Milosevic was overwhelmed by a 10-minute standing ovation Partizan received from their fans after the final whistle.

“It’s heart-warming and it shows we are on the right track,” said the former Yugoslavia and Aston Villa striker.

“There are going to be ups and downs but their support means they appreciate the effort.”

Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic, Editing by Ed Osmond

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