Billed as one of the best matchups in world football this year, Real Madrid and Manchester United did not disappoint throughout a pulsating match in the Champions League Round of 16, with the two sides running out equal winners on the night in a 1-1 draw.
Manchester United will now have a key advantage when the pair play again at Old Trafford in a fortnight, courtesy of their away-goal advantage.
Madrid dominated the Red Devils in the first 45 minutes—constantly peppering David De Gea's goal throughout the half—and were incredibly unlucky not to have broken the deadlock after five minutes when Fabio Coentrao's shot hit the post.
However, almost seemingly against the run of play, it would be the English Premier League leaders who would net the opening goal of the match through Danny Welbeck. The England international's header off Wayne Rooney's corner after 20 minutes was the first real attacking chance that the Red Devils had against the La Liga champions, and he took it remarkably well.
Not surprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo netted a spectacular goal in his first game against his former club, rising incredibly well to head home Angel Di Maria's cross to level the scores.
The header was Ronaldo's seventh headed-goal in the Champions League since 2003—the second most headed-goals in that time period (per Opta).
Madrid would further threaten United's defense throughout the remainder of the first half, with great chances falling to Mesut Ozil and Ronaldo. However, neither was able to find the back of the net before the interval, with De Gea continuing to make excellent saves for United.
Both sides would swap attacking chances throughout the start of the second half, with the most crucial moment coming when Raphael Varane brought down Patrice Evra as the last man. Fortunately for Madrid, however, his challenge was waved on, and cries for a red card were dismissed.
Foul, red card. Simple as that. Big mistake.— Will Tidey (@willtidey) February 13, 2013
Coentrao found himself open at the back post with one of the best chances around the hour mark, but once again it was De Gea to the rescue for United.
As the match wore on, further space began to appear for both teams, with Robin van Persie having his only real chances for the match here in the space of two minutes—both of which should have probably seen the Dutchman find the back of the net.
His first shot rattled the crossbar and was played in one-on-one with Diego Lopez just moments later, the goal seemingly at his mercy. However, his shot was scuffed and dramatically cleared off the line by a grateful Real Madrid.
Few chances presented themselves in the final 15 minutes for either side, but Ronaldo's free kick that fizzed over the bar from 35 yards out was one of the better opportunities.
Yet ultimately, despite all attacking chances and opportunities that the La Liga champions had throughout the match, it would be United who left the Bernabeu Stadium the happier of the two teams, their away-goal advantage in hand.
Madrid would dominate with 60-percent match possession and 28 goal attempts to just 13, yet ultimately, they could not translate that into a game-winning goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid: A
The pressure and expectation on Ronaldo here was incredibly high from both Madrid and United fans, yet the superstar still managed to exceed it all.
With Phil Jones essentially tracking him the entire match, Ronaldo switched beautifully throughout the left and right flanks, terrorizing United's defense as a result. His mazy dribbling skills and ability to beat a man one-on-one was simply superb here, and crucial to Madrid's attack as usual.
His first-half header was simply a reflection of the complete footballer Ronaldo is in attack, with United unable to do anything at all to stop his finish.
Another brilliant night, as expected, from the Portuguese international.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United: B-
Due to the sheer amount of defending that United were forced to do throughout this one, Van Persie wasn't really afforded any real attacking opportunities here.
The Dutchman did an awful lot of tackling in the middle of the field rather than the attacking runs that he has mesmerized world football with so far this year.
The chances he missed, however, particularly when played through on goal to be one-on-one with Lopez, could well come back to haunt United. He should have scored, and United should be heading back to Old Trafford with another goal next to their name.
David De Gea, Manchester United: A+
Having suffered fierce criticism earlier in the season, De Gea proved again today why he is the top goalkeeper at Manchester United with a number of great saves.
Without the Spanish international at the back, United would surely have been trailing heading into half-time and would surely have ended up losing this one.
A great David De Gea audition, this.— James Tyler (@JamesTylerESPN) February 13, 2013
There wasn't much he could have done about Ronaldo's first goal, and with top saves earlier on Coentrao, Ozil, Benzema and the Portuguese winger right throughout the match, it was hard to find too many faults with him here.
Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid: A-
While Ronaldo attracted the vast majority of the defensive attention from United, it was Madrid's other winger who created a plethora of chances here.
The winger was superbly denied by De Gea on a number of occasions and was incredibly unfortunate not to find the back of the net in this one.
His attacking skills helped create space for both Ronaldo and Ozil, with his passing skills particularly potent for Los Blancos throughout the match.
What did you make of the Real Madrid vs. Manchester United match?
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