Classy Mata hits milestone as Man Utd vanquish Brighton in EFL Cup

Man Utd playmaker Juan Mata was the star of the show as he produced an inspired performance to secure his side’s safe passage to the EFL Cup quarter finals.

With both teams heavily changed from their pulsating league encounter last weekend, the match predictably lacked flow early on.

The first real chance of the clash came in the 18th minute in a free-flowing Man Utd attack comprising smart movement.

Brandon Williams’ incisive through ball found Juan Mata, who in turn picked out Odion Ighalo with a delicate pass. The Nigerian took a touch to round the Brighton goalkeeper, but his left-footed strike from an increasingly acute angle could only find the side netting.

Seagulls winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh then forced Dean Henderson into action as the game gradually began to open up, but David De Gea’s regular understudy was comfortably equal to the task.

As the half drew to a close, Man Utd made the breakthrough with a simple set piece goal.

Juan Mata’s floated delivery from out wide was met by Scott McTominay who calmly headed home after escaping his marker to make it 1-0.

See how all the action unfolded minute by minute via the TEAMtalk score centre here.

A pair of direct free-kicks from Fred and Alexis Mac Allister came to nothing to open up the second half as both sides continued to labour in the attacking thirds.

Leandro Trossard came close to finding an equaliser in the 68th minute, but his snap shot fron near the penalty spot was kept out superbly by the quick reactions of Henderson.

That missed opportunity came back to bite Brighto almost immediately, with Mata doubling the visitors lead after exquisite work from Donny Van de Beek.

The Dutchman’s delicate flick set the Spaniard free on goal, with Mata making no mistake from close range despite shooting with his weaker right foot.

Substitute Paul Pogba then missed a glorious opportunity to put the game to bed with a header, but it mattered not as the third goal came via the boot of the Frenchman moments later.

His direct free-kick appeared destined to go wide, but deflected off the Brighton wall and snuck in off the near post to make it 3-0.

Brighton heads never fell, but their race was run as Man Utd secured safe passage to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup.

 

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