Joel Pereira Manchester United’s hero in thrilling penalty shoot-out against AC Milan

by Alex Turk

Young goalkeeper Joel Pereira stole the show as Manchester United defeated AC Milan 9-8 on penalties in the opening match of the International Champions Cup.

The two European powerhouses played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in normal time after Alexis Sanchez broke the deadlock with a 12th-minute finish and former Liverpool winger Suso responded just three minutes later.

Per International Champions Cup rules, if a team wins the match in normal time they will receive three points, but in the case of a draw penalties are required to decide which team takes two points and which team takes one.

And that’s what it came down to.

United score their first three, but miss the final two

Andreas Pereira, once again impressive in a deeper role throughout the game, kicked the shoot-out off by sending another ex-Liverpool star in Pepe Reina the wrong way.

Joel Pereira got a hand to Hakan Calhanoglu’s fierce penalty but couldn’t keep it out, but Ander Herrera stepped up and buried his into the bottom left corner to regain United’s lead.

The Portugal U21 goalkeeper made his first stop, denying yet another Liverpool face of the past Fabio Borini well with his trailing left leg.

Alexis was mightily impressive again for Man United and calmly extended the lead to 3-1 moments later, before Joel Pereira guessed the right way again but failed to stop Franck Kessié’s penalty.

Scott McTominay then stepped up and saw his penalty saved by Reina, but Joel Pereira pulled off another save of his own afterwards to deny Suso as the winger netted past Lee Grant in the first-half.

Chris Smalling was walking up to take what would have been the winning penalty, but Jose Mourinho bizarrely ordered Joel Pereira to step up himself as a reward for his shot-stopping – but the ‘keeper couldn’t be as prolific from the spot and missed the chance to win it there and then.

Reina then stepped up himself and kept his cool to tie the score at 3-3 and take it into sudden death, which started terribly for United as the former Spain international saved Eric Bailly’s weak effort.

Sudden death needed as every player steps up

It was then Alessio Romagnoli’s opportunity to win it for Milan and he sent Joel Pereira the wrong way, but hit the post to continue proceedings.

Smalling eventually got his chance to take a penalty and confidently scored it to make the score 4-3, but Davide Calabria came up with a fine response. 4-4.

Axel Tuanzebe had a solid game as part of a back three and fired his penalty into the top corner before Nikola Kalinić – notoriously sent home from the 2018 World Cup for refusing to play for Croatia – made it 5-a-piece.

Substitute Timothy Fosu-Mensah kept his cool to restore United’s lead and Mateo Musacchio left Joel Pereira with no chance as it went to 6-6.

It seemed to be all over when debutant Ethan Hamilton saw his tame penalty saved by Reina, but United’s 22-year-old stopper heroically dove to his right to deny Jose Mauri the winner.

Sentimental captain of the day Matteo Darmian scored a good penalty to make it 7-6, but so did Luca Antonelli to complete the cycle at 7-7.

Andreas Pereira scored a cheeky panenka spot-kick for his second of the shoot-out and the ever-reliable Calhanoglu replied with a ferocious hit in off the crossbar.

We came to a climax when Herrera buried his effort into the same corner as his first before it looked like Kessie purposely chipped his penalty over the bar to end the penalty shoot-out at 9-8 to United – it was that bad an effort.

After claiming a narrow victory in the first International Champions Cup outing of Tour 2018, United face Liverpool in Michigan next.

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