Europa League: Manchester United ekes by Zorya on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal
MADRID (AP) — Wayne Rooney finally made a difference for Manchester United this season, setting up Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal two minutes after coming off the bench to beat Ukraine's Zorya Luhansk 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.
Inter Milan fell 3-1 at Sparta Prague to lose its second in a row in the European competition, while Mario Balotelli scored again but couldn't prevent Nice losing at Russian side Krasnodar 5-2. The Italian striker was substituted at halftime with an apparent knee injury.
There was mixed reaction at Old Trafford when Jose Mourinho sent in the much-criticized Rooney in the 67th minute, but his misfired shot bounced to the far post, where Ibrahimovic nodded in.
Rooney was in good position inside the area after a cross from the right flank, but the ball hit off his knee as he attempted a shot, going across the area toward Ibrahimovic.
Mourinho didn't start Rooney after saying he wanted to protect his captain from a media backlash if he had another poor performance.
It was a crucial win for United, which was coming off a 1-0 loss at Feyenoord in its Europe League opener. The English side moved off the bottom of Group A. Turkey's Fenerbahce, which defeated Feyenoord 1-0 at home, led by a point after two matches.
United controlled possession against Zorya but created very few scoring chances, with the best early on coming from a powerful shot by Marcus Rashford that struck the crossbar.
SPARTA 3, INTER 1
Inter Milan's opening loss to Hapoel Beer-Sheva became less shocking when it fell at Sparta Prague and dropped to last in Group K.
A three-time champion, Inter has lost four straight in European competitions. It arrived boosted by a come-from-behind win over Juventus in Serie A, but produced another poor performance in European competition at Generali Arena.
Forward Vaclav Kadlec scored twice in the first half for Sparta, which moved to second place in the group. Hapoel and Southampton, which drew 0-0 in Israel, lead by one point. Inter has yet to earn a point.
Striker Rodrigo Palacio pulled Inter back into the game with a goal in the 71st, but defender Mario Holek sealed the victory for the hosts just a minute after Inter defender Andrea Ranocchia was sent off in the 75th for a second yellow card.
KRASNODAR 5, NICE 2
Balotelli scored but Nice lost at Russian side Krasnodar in Group I. To make things worse, the Italian forward was substituted at halftime, apparently because of a knock to his knee while scoring his fifth goal in four games.
Brazilian forwards Joaozinho and Ari scored two goals each for Krasnodar, which leads the group with Schalke. The German team beat Salzburg 3-1.
Group G leader Ajax defeated Standard Liege 1-0 to end a run of five consecutive home draws in Europe, while 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk topped Braga 2-0 in Group H. Fiorentina routed Azerbaijan's Qarabag 5-1 with three goals in eight minutes just before halftime, including a pair by Senegalese striker Khouma Babacar, and Steaua Bucharest and Villarreal exchanged first-half goals in a 1-1 draw in Romania in Group L.