Mkhitaryan, Manchester United finish off Saint Etienne, move on in Europa League

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Wednesday February 22nd, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Criticized by manager Jose Mourinho for being over-confident in the first leg at Old Trafford, Manchester United's players put on a fine display of focus and discipline on Wednesday to beat Saint-Etienne 1-0 and reach the last 16 of the Europa League with a 4-0 aggregate win.

The Red Devils traveled to France for the last-32 return leg with a 3-0 advantage and put the game to bed with an early goal from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored the winner in the 17th minute from Juan Mata's assist as United prevailed at Geoffroy Guichard stadium.

United tightened its grip on the match with a strong defensive performance after moving ahead, despite playing with 10 men in the final half-hour after Eric Bailly was shown a second yellow card.

Needing at least three goals to keep its hopes alive, Saint-Etienne got off to a strong start and created its first chance within the first minute when Henri Saivet tested 'keeper Sergio Romero with a low shot from the right.

Well organized in midfield, United easily slowed down the pace and prevented the hosts from hitting their stride. The Red Devils then converted their first chance to kill any sense of suspense when Mkhitaryan connected with a cross from Mata to put United ahead with a flick past Stephane Ruffier.

Mata came close to doubling the lead six minutes later but Ruffier made a nice reflex save to parry away his cross after the ball was twice deflected by Saint-Etienne players.

Mkhitaryan was forced to leave the pitch soon after with an apparent hamstring injury that could rule him out of Sunday's League Cup final at Wembley against Southampton.

Saint-Etienne enjoyed a good spell near the half-hour but the hosts' possession did not translate into clear-cut opportunities.

Saint-Etienne dominated early in the second half but could not find an edge as Saivet saw his shot blocked and Kevin Monnet-Paquet missed the target.

United remained the most dangerous team, though, as Marcus Rashford led fast counterattacks down the left flank and Marouane Fellaini's shot in the 58th hit the side netting.

The Red Devils played a man down for the final 27 minutes after Bailly was sent off following a clumsy tackle but Saint-Etienne could not take advantage of the situation.

Elsewhere in Wednesday's Europa League action:

SCHALKE 1, PAOK 1

Alessandro Schoepf scored a first-half goal to give the hosts a comfortable cushion and Schalke easily progressed to the next round with a 4-1 win on aggregate.

The Austrian was set up by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and slotted home with a clean finish in the 23rd minute.

PAOK leveled two minutes later after Matija Nastasic beat his own 'keeper by diverting a ball into the net.

FENERBAHCE 1, KRASNODAR 1

Krasnodar made it to the Round of 16 for the first time with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Fedor Smolov scored the decisive goal in the seventh minute, converting the Russian side's first shot of the match.

Fenerbahce midfielder Souza put the teams level in the 41st minute.

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