REAL MADRID 1, MAN UNITED 1
Danny Welbeck scored a crucial away goal as Manchester United gained a creditable 1-1 draw in the last-16 clash of the titans at Real Madrid.
And it provides Sir Alex Ferguson’s side with a slight advantage for the return at Old Trafford early next month with the Reds’ manager declaring himself satisfied with the outcome of a pulsating match.
While Welbeck silenced the Spaniards by giving United a first-half lead it was only a brief advantage as old-boy Cristian Ronaldo headed an equaliser. Incrediubly it was his 183rd goal in 180 games for Real.
While Real had more possession, more goal attempts and the better of play, United were always a threat on the counter and at the death Robin van Persie could have snatched victory.
United had van Persie as the lone front man with Phil Jones and Michael Carrick providing the anchor in midfield allowing Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Welbeck to break forward.
There was an early let off for United as Fabio Coentrao’s shot was touched on to the inside of the upright by David De Gea, the first of a number of important stops.
Welbeck, who had scored only once in his previous 27 matches, silenced the Bernabeu when he put United ahead in the 20th minute with a header from six yards following Rooney’s corner.
Mesut Ozil forced a good save from De Gea while Ronaldo crashed a shot narrowly wide and his free kick smashed into the defensive wall before rebounding to him.
The equaliser came on the half hour when Angel Di Maria’s left-wing cross was headed home by Ronaldo following an incredible leap above Patrice Evra.
United responded as Welbeck’s flick beat keeper Diego Lopez, but rolled narrowly wide while Rooney cut inside and saw his shot flash past the upright.
Late in the opening period, Ozil’s shot was turned round the post by De Gea while the livewire Ronaldo had two further decent openings.
The start to the second period was less eventful, though eventually it exploded back to life.
Ronaldo, Di Maria and Coentrao had chances before United had two great chances to regain the lead.
Dutchman van Persie’s shot was deflected on to the crossbar by Lopez and moments later he eluded the offside trap and flicked the ball past Lopez only for Xabi Alonso to appear from nowhere to make a goalline clearance.
Late on Sami Khedira and Ronaldo had chances for Real before in the third and final minute of added time United so nearly snatched victory.
Only a great save by Lopez low to his left prevented van Persie from finding the net.