Game in a sentence
A contentious match as Real Madrid beat a ten-man Manchester United 1-2 to progress to the quarterfinals.
- The clash called ‘the match of the year’, the one Mourinho said would cause the world to come to a standstill, was transformed into a disappointing Champions League last 16 second leg thanks to a terrible refereeing call.
- It was a superb game until 22 players were reduced to 21.
- The biggest surprise before the match (before the red card) was Alex Ferguson’s decision to omit Wayne Rooney from the starting XI. Shinji Kagawa, who had a marvelous hat-trick against Norwich City over the weekend, was also expected by many to start. But instead SAF went with Ryan Giggs on the right and Nani on the left, with Danny Welbeck playing right behind Robin Van Persie.
- This was of course Giggs 1000th appearance. Congratulations!
- As for Real Madrid there was nothing surprising in their lineup. The only main change was to play Gonzalo Higuain instead of Karim Benzema up front.
- United played a much more defensive game, but it proved effective. While Madrid had more possession, it was the English side that created the better chances in the first half.
- Welbeck was a threat all night. He made several deep runs into the opponent’s penalty box and was causing many problems for Madrid’s back four.
- United also did an excellent job at containing Ronaldo. With Rafael the main man in charge of curbing CR7’s advances. Giggs also helped the right back in that duty and silenced many of his critics, who were expecting the 39 year old to come on as sub.
- Madrid had the first chance in the 11th minute, but Higuain’s shot went wide. Three minutes later, the Red Devils surged forward to set up RVP, but Welbeck’s slide to Nani was cleared by Coentrao.
- The Spanish side lacked the dominance and influence we had witnessed earlier against Barcelona. Xabi Alonso was having a quiet night and Sami Khedira wasn’t as impactful as he would have liked.
- Throughout the game, Madrid were conceding way too many corners. They got lucky when Nemanja Vidic’s header from Giggs’ corner hit the lower end of the goal post in the 20th minute.
- After the Vidic chance, United were really starting to come out of their shell and pushing forward.
- Attempts were pretty even in the first 45 minutes, but with Madrid creating the lesser of the chances. It was a well paced game with both sides alternating spells of attack, but United were the slightly better team in the first half.
- Despite worries over United’s defence, SAF demonstrated his team’s ability to adjust. Knowing the Spanish side is deadly on counterattacks, the Red Devils employed an extremely balanced game, both offensively and defensively. They were blocking shots and cutting back the space for Madrid to operate, especially for CR7.
- It was a fairly decent match until the start of the second half. Manchester United started on a wonderful footing, but dark clouds were only a few minutes away from hovering over Old Trafford.
- United took the lead thanks to a mistake by Sergio Ramos in the 48th minute. The goal began with a forward push by Rafael. After both RVP and Welbeck’s attempts failed, Nani managed to keep the ball inside Madrid’s third of the pitch. His ensuing cross must have confused Ramos for the defender pulled out his leg and scored an own goal.
- But the celebration was cut short when the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir pulled a red card on Nani (who was having a great game) for a boot to the chest on Alvaro Arbeloa. It was a shocking decision, way too harsh for an unintentional high kick. A yellow would have likely sufficed.
- Meanwhile, Fergie was steaming with anger (and rightly so). Unable to reverse the decision of course, he rushed to the stands and excited the supporters. From Twitter to the fans inside the stadium, everyone appeared livid.
- Unfortunately, the booking changed the outcome of the game. Although Madrid were starting to increase their incursions prior to the red, with the man advantage their pressing only intensified.
- Luka Modric, who replaced Arbeloa in the 59th minute, drilled in a stunning goal from roughly 25 yards to equalize. Three minutes later, CR7 secured the lead with the help of Higuain. Ronaldo was respectful enough not to celebrate of course, but at this point the fans didn’t seem to care.
- Rooney eventually came on, but this game was pretty much a wrap by then. The Los Blancos seemed comfortable with the lead and sat back for the rest of the match.
- But despite being down a player, United fought like warriors. They even came awfully close in the 79th minute to tie the game, but Welbeck’s shot was blocked by Ramos.
- United had a few more opportunities in the 82nd and 83rd minutes, but Diego Lopez was both times in a great position to make the save. For those fleeting moments it seemed United could possibly pull off one of the biggest upsets in football and humiliate the Spanish side, but the chances never solidified into anything.
- While this match was supposed to be the ‘match of the year’ it’ll go down as one of the most controversial games in Champions League history thanks to a poor call.
- Even Mourinho spoke in uncharacteristically candid fashion after the match:”The best team lost. We didn’t play very well tonight.”
- We’ll never know if Madrid could have pulled off the win had it not been for the red card, but their performance had luck written all over it today.