Manchester United 1 - 2 Real Madrid (Champions League, Last-16, 2nd Leg)

Real Madrid’s history is riddled with epic tales and memorable stories that are passed down through the generations. Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams, has featured in some of them. Today we witnessed another show en route to the Champions League quarter-finals. The first half was very even and ended goalless. Everything came in a pulsating second. Ramos’ own goal in 48th minute made the Whites’ task even more difficult, but Nani’s sending off in the 56th minute spurred on the visitors, who in two second minutes, sealed their qualification for the quarter-finals. Modric started the comeback with a moment of genius in the 66th minute. The way in which the ball hit the inside of the post and snuck into the goal past De Gea made the curled shot from the edge of the box even more beautiful. Without time to absorb what had happened, Ronaldo decided the tie and brought a dream week to an end with a finish at the far post following a nice team move.

Real Madrid team with green jersey celebrate the victory at Old Trafford
Real Madrid celebrate the victory at Old Trafford

The Champions League does not give second chances in the knockout stages. Real Madrid and Manchester United were aware that the eyes of the world were on Old Trafford and that any errors could lead them to pay dearly in a tie that was wide open following the 1-1 scoreline in the first leg. Perhaps that is why both teams made their intentions clear to the other from the beginning of the match. With the same eleven players who performed so well for Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, the Whites had possession of the ball and the English team chose to sit back and to try to surprise on the counter.

The visitors had the first chance. Higuain, in the 11th minute, received the ball on the edge of the area and controlled it with three defenders on top of him and before threading through a shot that went very close to De Gea’s goal. Manchester United replied from a corner taken by Giggs and headed against the woodwork in the 20th minute. Subsequently, and although the play was ruled out for offside, Welbeck shot from in front of goal and forced Diego Lopez to show his best from the ground. More dangerous moves followed and Real Madrid had another attempt in the 32nd minute following Di Maria’s pass in behind the defense for Higuain, who clipped the ball directly into the goalkeeper's chest. A minute later it was the English side’s turn. It came in the form of a Van Persie shot that Diego Lopez could not keep hold of and immediately made a great save in a one-on-one with Welbeck. Before the end of the first half, Di Maria was injured whilst running for the ball and the Whites played with ten players for three minutes before he was replaced by Kaka in the 45th minute.

There were still 45 minutes ahead and everything to play for in a tie that seemed like it would be decided on minor details. The Whites had some bad luck in the 48th minute from Nani’s cross that Ramos, whilst trying to clear it, put ball in the back of his own net. The goal, far from doing harm Real Madrid, spurred them on. They still had the same task in that they had to score, but now a goal from the visitors would take the match into extra time. There was no time to draw breath and even less following Nani’s sending off for kicking Arbeloa in the 56th minute. Mourinho decided to bring on Modric for Arbeloa in the 59th minute and the Whites began to dominate the match. One minute later they came close to levelling match with a corner taken by Ozil and flicked on by Varane before Higuain’s head goalwards. Rafael saved his side with a block on the goal line with his left arm.

What came next were Real Madrid best moments of the match, which sealed their passage to the quarter-final in just two minutes of play. Modric began the comeback with a moment of genius. The Croatian received the ball on the edge of the area, left an opposing defender in his wake and beat De Gea with a lovely curler in the 66th minute. The Whites’ boldness and daring prevented them from sticking with that and they went on to score the second from a nice team move. Ozil's back-heeled pass, Higuain cross and Ronaldo finish at the far post ended with the ball in the net in the 68th minute. There would be no extra-time and Manchester United would have to score twice to go through. Perhaps that was the reason that Mourinho intelligently opted to replace Ozil with Pepe.

Manchester United, with the continued support of their fans, believed in the comeback, but Real Madrid showed maturity on the pitch and could have even scored the third with Kaka's shot that found the post in the 87th minute and a Ronaldo one-on-one, which De Gea stopped well. Equally as impressive were Diego Lopez’s crucial interventions in the closing stages from Vidic and Van Persie efforts. The Whites put the finishing touches to a week in which they sealed a place in the cup final at the Camp Nou, beat Barcelona again in the league and have sealed their passage to the Champions League quarter-finals at Old Trafford.


Stadium: Old Trafford
Attendance: 75,000
Goals: 1-0, m.48: Ramos (o.g.); 1-1, m.66: Modric; 1-2, m.69: Cristiano Ronaldo.

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