Manchester United hold Bayern Munich, keep UEFA Champions League hopes alive

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Manchester United battled to a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday at Old Trafford.

United went ahead midway through the second half, as defender Nemanja Vidic superbly flicked home a header from a corner to spark wild celebrations amongst United’s fans. Despite dominating vast swathes of possession — the half time stats read 78 percent possession in favor of Bayern — the Bundelisga outfit were struggling to contain Danny Welbeck on the break as United defended well.

However less than 10 minutes after the Red Devils went ahead, Bastian Schweinsteiger smashed in a stunning finish after he anticipated Mario Mandzukic’s knockdown to level things up.

For the rest of the game Bayern probed to get a winner, but a late red card for Schweinsteiger soured their evening as the Red Devils have a chance of advancing, against all the odds, when they visit Bavaria next Wednesday.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Man United and Bayern Munich’s draw)

Man United started brightly as Welbeck scored a stunning early goal, slamming the ball high into the net after lifting the ball over Javi Martinez… but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo pulled it back for a high foot by Welbeck. That decision looked harsh, as United came flying out of the traps.

After that initial positivity, Bayern dominated proceedings with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben cutting in from both flanks and causing plenty of problems. The German champions kept hold of the ball supremely well but United held firm with two solid banks of four doing their job.

In the 30th minute David De Gea was forced into a stunning save as Robben curled an effort towards the top corner but United’s ‘keeper tipped the ball around the post. After that chance for Bayern, the home side responded well with Welbeck running riot in behind and Wayne Rooney having an effort blocked after good build up play from Marouane Fellaini.

source: AP
Schweinsteiger equalized in the second half but was sent off late on.

For the rest of the first half United absorbed plenty of pressure and in the 39th minute Welbeck had a glorious chance to put them ahead when Rooney played him clean through. However, the England international got it all wrong and tried to dink the ball over the advancing Manuel Neuer, who batted the ball away as Old Trafford reflected on a missed opportunity for the Red Devils.

(MORE: Moyes – “We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity” as United dig in)

Just before the break more counter-attacking play from United saw Antonio Valencia have a shot which was deflected just over the bar as cautious optimism hung in the air in Manchester.

At half time United made a change as 40-year-old Ryan Giggs was replaced by Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa. That change didn’t effect the flow of the game too much, as Bayern still held onto the ball superbly after they’d dominated possession with 78 percent of the ball in the first half. Bayern continued to push for the opener, and some terrific last-ditch defending from Vidic thwarted Bayern’s attackers after a slick counter attacking just before the hour mark.

Moments later Vidic was the main man at the other end as United took the lead. Rooney’s out swinging corner was met by the Serbian defender, who glanced his header into the far corner to send the home fans wild. Bayern didn’t take long to respond, as ten minutes later substitute Mandzukic nodded the ball down to an onrushing Schweinsteiger who rifled the ball into the top corner to make it 1-1. United’s midfielders really should have tracked Schweinsteiger better, but that’s taking nothing away from the German midfielders fabulous finish.

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The game ebbed and flowed for the remaining quarter, as Robben ran at United’s defense and clipped a right-footed shot just wide of the far post as Bayern began to crank up the pressure. Two late yellow cards, including a second yellow for Schweinsteiger and one for Javi Martinez, sees both players suspended for the second leg as the visitors were upset with the calls going against them.

Despite all of that the Red Devils held on to draw, as the return game at the Allianz Arena on April 9 is poised perfectly in this huge Anglo-Germanic clash.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Buttner (Young, 74′); Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Giggs (Kagawa, 45′); Rooney, Welbeck (Hernandez, 85′)

Goal: Vidic (58′)

Bayern Munich: Neuer; Rafinha, Alaba, Boateng, Javi Martinez, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Ribery, Muller (Mandzukic, 63′,) Kroos (Gotze, 74′)

Goal: Schweinsteiger (66′)