MANCHESTER., England (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his first hat trick for Manchester United — and the 17th of his illustrious career — in a 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne in the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday.
All the pre-match focus for the first leg was on the family reunion between the Pogba brothers, Paul (United) and Florentin (Saint-Etienne), but Ibrahimovic became the center of attention at Old Trafford once again by moving to 23 goals in all competitions in his impressive first season at United.
Ibrahimovic opened the scoring with a deflected free kick in the 15th, tapped in his second goal in the 75th, and completed his hat trick in the 88th by converting a penalty he won himself. The striker has scored 17 times in 14 games against Saint-Etienne, with his previous 14 goals coming for Paris Saint-Germain during his time in France.
The margin of victory may afford United manager Jose Mourinho the luxury of resting some key players for the second leg on Wednesday, with the game coming four days before United plays Southampton in the English League Cup final.
Paul Pogba won the battle of the brothers, running the game from center midfield and almost scoring when he headed against the bar from the edge of the six-yard box. Florentin, older by three years, ended the game early when he was taken off injured — but only after being given an embrace by his more renowned sibling.
It was a family catch-up for the Pogbas at Old Trafford, with their mother and other brother, Mathias, watching from a corporate box wearing jerseys with United’s colors on one half and Saint-Etienne’s colors on the other.
The scoreline was harsh on Saint-Etienne, which created plenty of chances but was let down by poor finishing.
A look at some other games:
VILLARREAL 0, ROMA 4
Roma striker Edin Dzeko became the leading scorer in this season’s competition, moving onto eight with his second-half hat trick against Villarreal.
It is 28 goals in all competitions for Dzeko, who scored in the 65th, 79th and 86th minutes.
Emerson Palmieri opened the scoring for the Italians.
CELTA VIGO 0, SHAKHTAR DONETSK 1
This was Shakhtar’s first competitive outing since Dec. 12, but even the long break couldn’t halt the Ukrainian team’s momentum in the Europa League.
Shakhtar, the winner of the UEFA Cup — the precursor to the Europa League — in 2009, earned its seventh straight win in the competition when debutant Blanco Leschuk scored at the end of a 27th-minute counterattack.
Shakhtar was the only team to go through qualifying with a 100 percent record.
GENT 1, TOTTENHAM 0
Tottenham’s attack is malfunctioning, just when the big games are piling up for the English club.
It’s now one goal in four games for Spurs after a loss at the eighth-place team in the Belgian league, with Gent’s winner coming from Jeremy Perbet in the 59th.
England striker Harry Kane hit the post for Spurs but finished the game with a knee injury.
BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH 0, FIORENTINA 1
Federico Bernardeschi celebrated his 23rd birthday with the winner for Fiorentina, leaving Moenchengladbach still without a home win in Europe after dropping down from the Champions League.
Bernardeschi got up from being fouled on the edge of the area and curled a free kick around the wall and into the top corner.
Alexandre Lacazette enhanced his burgeoning reputation by scoring two of Lyon’s goals in a 4-1 win at AZ Alkmaar, while Rostov capitalized on the sending-off of Tiemoko Konate at 1-0 to beat Sparta Prague 4-0.
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer