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Manchester clubs record victory in Ajax, Porto


BERLIN MANCHESTER United and Manchester City raised their game in the second half to take a big step towards the round of 16 in the Europa League with victories on Thursday.

Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez were on target for the Premier League champions United in a 2-0 victory at Ajax Amsterdam in the first leg of the round of 32.

The Premiership leaders City prevailed 2-1 at title holders Porto as a 55th-minute own goal from Alvaro Pereira and a late strike from Sergio Aguero reversed the hosts’ lead from Silvestre Varela. But the third English club Stoke City lost 1-0 at home against Valencia, and there was more joy for Spain when 2010 champions Atletico Madrid cruised 3-1 past Lazio in Rome.The return legs are next week.

The Champions League exit of the two Manchester sides was a major surprise but each side said they now aim to get the Europa League trophy on May 9 in Bucharest.

However, United didn’t look like contenders early on in Amsterdam, and it took another super save of David de Gea against the blast of Siem de Jong to avoid a deficit.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s team improved after the break and Young put them ahead in the 59th with a low shot off Nani’s cross. Hernandez assured United of victory on the counter in the 85th after nice work from Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney.

”There wasn’t any tempo to our play in the first half, but in the second half we improved ..
The second goal gives us a good opportunity at Old Trafford to get us through,” said Ferguson.

The game in Porto followed a similar pattern as City also needed improvement after falling behind when Varela beat Vincent Kompany to convert Hulk’s sharp cross from the left wing. Micah Richards was denied by the woodwork but City were level in the 55th when the ball fell into the net off Pereira, who with Balotelli, back from a four-game suspension, following a long ball from Yaya Toure. Toure, back from the Africa Cup of Nations, then also set up the winner in the 85th as Aguero tapped home.

Stoke failed to add further glory for England when they were beaten by dominant Valencia from Mehmet Topal’s 30m high blast into the top left corner.

In Rome, Germany striker Miroslav Klose tapped Lazio in front, but Adrian Lopez and Falcao reversed matters before the break. The former Porto player Falcao got his second for the 3-1 shoreline in the 62nd which should all but see Atletico through into the next round.

Elsewhere, the 1997 UEFA Cup champions Schalke fell behind at Viktoria Plzen from a fine volley by Vladimir Darida midway through the first half, but salvaged a 1-1 draw from Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with 16 minutes left.

”We can play better but all the counts is the next round.

We are in a good position,” Schalke sports director Horst Heldt told Sky TV.

Tim Matavz and Ola Toivonen scored in the first 11 minutes asex-champions PSV Eindhoven won 2-1 at Trapzonspor, and Taison was ontarget 19 seconds into the game in visiting Metalist Kharkiv’s 4-0triumph at Red Bull Salzburg.

AZ Alkmaar defeated Anderlecht 1-0, Sporting Lisbon got an 88thminute 2-2 equalizer from Andre Sanos at Legia Warsaw, Lokomotiv Moscow claimed a 2-1 comeback victory over Athletic Bilbao, Wisla Krakow drew 1-1 with Standard Liege, Hanover defeated Brugge 2-1,while Udinese and PAOK Salonika played to a goalless draw.

Steaua Bucharest’s hopes of making the final in their home townall but ended in a 1-0 home defeat against Twente Enschede.

On Tuesday, Olympiakos Piraeus won 1-0 at Rubin Kazan and Besiktas2-0 at last season’s runners-up Braga.

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