Mkhitaryan helps Man United to draw in Russia

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (L) fights for the ball with Rostov's Spanish defender ...
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (L) fights for the ball with Rostov's Spanish defender Cesar Navas (C) and Rostov's defender Fedor Kudryashov (R) during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 football match between Rostov and Manchester United at Olimp-2 Arena in Rostov-on-Don on March 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV

Henrikh Mkhitaryan bagged a precious away goal as Manchester United came away from their trip to Russia with a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Rostov on Thursday.

On an awful pitch, the state of which had United manager Jose Mourinho fuming on the eve of the game, Mkhitaryan turned in the opener 10 minutes before half-time.

But Aleksandr Bukharov levelled for the home side in the 53rd minute at the Olimp 2 stadium, keeping Rostov hopes alive ahead of next week’s return at Old Trafford.

The build-up to the match had been overshadowed by United’s complaints about the playing surface and about concerns travelling fans could be targeted by Russian hooligans.

However, the evening passed off without incident inside the ground, where a little over 200 United supporters were in attendance along with ex-United assistant boss Carlos Queiroz, who is these days in charge of Iran.

They saw the visitors extend their recent unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games as Mourinho made seven changes to the team held by Bournemouth last weekend.

One of those brought back into the starting line-up was Mkhitaryan, and it was he who swept United in front in the 35th minute from close range after good build-up play involving Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Nevertheless Rostov, who are seventh in the Russian Premier League and had already won at home to Ajax and Bayern Munich in Europe this season, drew level thanks to a fine goal shortly after the break.

Timofei Kalachev delivered a ball over the top that was controlled on the chest inside the box and then fired home by Bukharov to secure the draw.

Elsewhere, FC Copenhagen beat Ajax 2-1 in Denmark with Rasmus Falk putting the hosts in front inside a minute.

Danish prodigy Kasper Dolberg levelled for the Dutch giants but Andreas Cornelius headed in the winner for Copenhagen on the hour.

Anderlecht beat APOEL 1-0 in Cyprus with a Nicolae Stanciu goal.

Lyon host Roma in the pick of the remaining five matches, all kicking off at 2005 GMT.

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