Classic Match Report- Manchester United (2) 1-2 (3) Real Madrid- 5th March 2013
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford as a Real Madrid player went to plan thanks to a controversial red card that helped seal a 2-1 win and dump Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League.
The home side were on top form and looked set to go through to the quarter-finals thanks to a Sergio Ramos own goal, but Nani was sent off for a high foot that split opinions in the stadium.
Luka Modric’s long range strike was followed up by Ronaldo’s second goal against his former side in as many games to send Madrid through and end United’s hopes of lifting the trophy.
With the score at 1-1 after the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid had a great chance to take the lead after ten minutes. Gonzalo Higuain’s clever touch made space in the penalty area but the 25-year-old fired wide with a poor effort.
Diego Lopez started in goal in place of the dropped Iker Casillas, but the goalkeeper was counting his blessings as the Red Devils hit the post. Ryan Giggs, who was making his 1,000th professional appearance, swung in the corner and Nemanja Vidic rose highest to power his header off the woodwork.
Lopez had to make a double save to make sure his side were level at half-time, after he fumbled Robin van Persie’s weak shot but flung himself to deny Danny Welbeck on the follow-up with a stunning save.
Ronaldo refused to celebrate after scoring in respect of his former team.
The second half provided a 45 minutes of football that enlightened the stadium, as both sides threw everything forward to get the victory. It took United just three minutes to get the lead, thanks to a huge slice of luck. Nani’s low cross from the left was attacked by Ramos, but the defender could only turn the ball into his own net to the delight of the Stretford End.
The feel-good atmosphere inside the stadium turned sour as the referee, Turkey’s Cuneyt Cakir, turned the game on his head with a divisive sending off. Nani challenged Alvaro Arbeloa with a high foot that everyone expected to warrant a booking, but both benches were shocked to see the red card brandished. It was a decision that embarrassed even Jose Mourinho on the sideline.
The advantage drove Madrid back into the game as Kaka smashed well over from 18 yards and Higuain’s header was cleared off the line by Rafael. Madrid kept the pressure on, but United had a chance on the counter attack as van Persie stung the hands of Lopez with a long-range effort.
Both sides were determined in this battle of footballing titans.
Unfortunately for the home side, the game and the tie was decided thanks to two goals in three minutes. It was former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Modric that let fly from 25 yards, surprising David De Gea who had no chance as the ball sizzled into the bottom corner thanks to a deflection from the post.
The goal stunned the hosts and Madrid took advantage to add a second, with Ronaldo the main man once again. Mesut Ozil’s clever pass allowed Higuain to square the ball across the box, and the Portuguese superstar was on hand to tap in and break the spirit of his former employers.
United knew they had to attack to stand a chance of going through, but Welbeck’s weak header was easily saved as they started to up the pressure. Michael Carrick thrashed over from 18 yards with a poor volley and the atmosphere returned to the stadium.
Ryan Giggs was making his 1,000th professional appearance.
Just after, the former Spurs midfielder headed Giggs’ cross towards goal but Lopez showed great athletic ability pull off a stunning save and keep his side in charge of the tie.
United should have pulled a goal back in the tie, but Wayne Rooney wasted a brilliant opportunity. The ball was cut back to him, and from six yards, the England striker blazed over and the hope was lost for United.
Madrid nearly added to the lead late on as Kaka hit the post and De Gea denied Ronaldo with a great save, but the goal wasn’t needed as the Spanish side held on to go through to the quarter finals.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)