Real Madrid dominated from the opening kickoff, but thanks to a corner kick converted by Danny Welbeck, Manchester United was on top early at the Santiago Bernabeu. Though the Merengues were able to equalize through Cristiano Ronaldo 10 minutes later, the Red Devils held on for the final hour to escape Spain with a valuable road goal and a 1-1 draw.
The result will be disappointing one for Real and manager José Mourinho. Having given up a road goal, his team must score at Old Trafford when the teams resume their two-legged affair on March 5 in Manchester.
That El Real are in this situation despite controlling the first leg is cause for both optimism and regret. Based on today’s play, Real Madrid have reason to believe they will be the better side regardless of when or where the next game is played. But Los Blancos should also regret their failure to take advantage of 61 percent possession and eight shots on target. In a game where one corner kick can get an outgunned team a road craw, being the better side is often not enough.
The edge in shots would have been greater were it not for a strong day from goalkeeper David de Gea. The former Atlético Madrid keeper not only recorded seven saves but managed Real’s shots such that the hosts never had a chance to followup on a number of well-hit chances. Though those attempts produced 12 Real Madrid corner kicks, strong aerial work from Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, and Jonny Evans left the favorites unable to convert.
Manchester United went up in the 20th minute after a long ball out of their end led to a corner won by Shinji Kagawa. From the left of goal Wayne Rooney swung the restart to the middle of the penalty area at the edge of the six-yard box. Welbeck peeled away from defender Sergio Ramos just in time to head a shot inside the right post, putting United in front.
Ten minutes later, it was Real Madrid’s turn to profit through the air. An unmolested cross from the left flank found Cristiano Ronaldo at the far post against out-matched left back Patrice Evra. Ronaldo elevated uncontested and uncoiled onto a ball put just against the right post, giving De Gea no chance to stop the equalizer.
Though the final hour was dominated by Real Madrid, Manchester United came closest to recording a go-ahead goal. In the 72nd minute, Robin van Persie got a chance through the right in transition, his shot from 10 yards pushed onto the crossbar by Diego Lopez.
Moments later, van Persie was fed behind the defense and threaded his shot around an oncoming Lopez. Xabi Alonso dropped back and cleared the slow bouncer off the line.
By the end of the match, José Mourinho was playing to preserve the draw, with Luka Modric brought on for Angel Di Maria before Alonso gave way for Pepe. With Alex Ferguson making similar choices — bringing on Ryan Giggs for Kagawa, Antonio Valencia for Welbeck, and Anderson for Rooney — the teams had acquiesced to the draw before Felix Byrch’s final whistle.
Check back later this afternoon as ProSoccerTalk drills down on both Manchester United’s visit to Real Madrid and German champion Borussia Dortmund voyage to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk.