Real Madrid vs Man Utd Match Report (Scoring draw in the Bernabeu gives Utd hope)By: Ian | February 14th, 2013
So this was it. The big one. Ferguson vs Mourinho. Ronaldo vs Van Persie. Whatever battle was suggested, it could simply be summed up by saying this game was going to be competitive. With Utd having mainly sorted their defensive frailities of early season, there was a better chance of coping with the Real attack and this game being played now would mean it might not be as one-sided as it would had it been played in, say, October. Needless to say, the game was entertaining, both sides made chances, both sides missed chances, and both performed well. Here’s what happened:
Surprise inclusion in the lineup for Utd. A Mr. D. Welbeck. Having only scored once this season, on paper he wasn’t the man to go looking for if you wanted a goal. Nevertheless, there he was, alongside Van Persie, with Rooney on the pitch, but supporting from deep. Kagawa, Carrick and Jones completed the midfield, with Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans and Evra behind them and De Gea a bit further back again. For Madrid, a fairly average lineup of Lopez, Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao, Di Maria, Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Ronaldo and Benzema. I know it’s odd looking at a Real squad without Casillas, but he’s out at the moment with injury.
To summarise the first half, Utd acted like the away side and Real completely dominated proceedings. White broke against Red time and time again. First off, it was Khedira testing his shooting, but found it lacking. Next came Di Maria, curling a effort just around the post from about 20 yards (Real’s preferred range it seems). Real then came extremely close with Coentrao busting forward to whip in an effort across goal. Hard to see at full speed, but De Gea got there and notched it onto the post. The chance came from Ronaldo beating Rafael, the Brazilian having real difficulty in getting close to the Portuguese wizard.
Alonso’s free kicks were also a danger. Varane headed one safely over before, against the run of play it has to be said, Utd got the crucial away goal. A Rooney corner was sent in well and up leapt Welbeck. Ramos couldn’t compete and the young forward glanced the ball past Lopez and into the net. A fantastic header, especially considering this season’s scoring record for him, but what a time to come good. Maybe Madrid hadn’t planned for him being on the pitch, I know I didn’t.
However, this didn’t change the run of play one iota. Forward came white, with Di Maria testing De Gea and Ronaldo just off target. A moment later, he was on target as Di Maria whipped in the ball from out wide on the left. Evra on Ronaldo is no competition in the air anyway, but the Portuguese’s jump was anti-gravity. And surprise surprise, he directed it past De Gea for parity. 1-1 and no more than Madrid deserved to their credit.
Utd did attack, but it was infrequent in the opportunity to do so. Van Persie had been booked after a raised arm on a jump, but he did get a good ball in on 34 minutes, for Welbeck to prod onto the oncoming keeper’s back and just, just wide. Another day, might have got the luck and in, but just a chance for now. The corner saw Rooney try to get an effort through a crowded box, but it wasn’t on target. Then a glorious route 1 ball from Alonso split Utd apart, and De Gea did superbly to block Ozil’s well-struck shot. Ronaldo completed the 45 minutes onslaught with a high drive. Goals equal, but performance, no.
Utd brightened up a bit as Jones got his head on a corner ball, but Ronaldo and Di Maria continued to fire in the shots. De Gea blocked two, one from each, before the latter struck one just wide of the post after great control. These two were the real Real danger, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Benzema then swapped for Higuain. Madrid pressed again, (or rather continued to press- never really stopped), with Khedira’s inviting ball in diverted goalwards by the slide of Coentrao. De Gea reacted quickly to block and the ball was booted away. Welbeck did burst forward, but the defenders were all over him and the threat was nullified.
A Utd change came as Kagawa was subbed for Giggs. Madrid acknowledged the change, and carried straight on. Di Maria and Ronaldo combined (there were others in white I assure you) for the former to get a ball in and Ronaldo to come close with a near-post slide, with great defending by a solid Ferdinand to get it out of play. Then came the Utd drama, as only they can provide. A rare occasion saw Utd pile the bodies forward and Van Persie struck in with his right foot. It didn’t look clean but it was on target and going in. Lopez saved onto the bar. Madrid got possession and tried to clear, but it was intercepted and got back in by Carrick. The defence misjudged the ball’s flight and Van Persie was there with only Lopez to beat. The Dutchman lined up and…miscued. A terrible connection that still might have gone in, but it wasn’t fast enough and only a few feet from the line it was cleared by Alonso. What a chance and it REALLY, REALLY should have been two.
How did Madrid react? Well, they sat back and parked the bus. Yeah, whatever, they went on an excursion to Utd’s end. Khedira’s deflected chance found the welcome arms of De Gea. Di Maria and Alonso made way for Modric and Pepe with Anderson also replacing Rooney (who didn’t have the best of nights by his standards though that probably says more about where he was positioned, his shiftwork was first class as usual). Ronaldo, who perhaps felt he hadn’t been involved enough yet, marked up another chance with a free kick that landed on the top netting, much to his dismay. Modric got a ball in that was well defended, but this was the end of the heavy forward traffic. A final chance came Utd’s way after a ball diagonally over the top found Van Persie, this time on his favoured left foot. The strike was much sweeter and Lopez got down quickly to tip it around the post. The corner was lined up, but to Utd’s annoyance, the whistle was blown. Some conference was held around the ref, Ferdinand in the lead, but it paled out to draw the action to a close. End score: 1-1.
With all of Real’s chances, and if they had all been on target, they could have had 20, maybe more. Some efforts were speculative, but with such great players, they still carried menace. The defence were good, as they needed to be, with De Gea the standout at the back. Some of his saves were simply excellent and simply crucial. The saves from Coentrao’s two attempts I highlight as special examples. Perhaps one of his strongest games in a Utd shirt. Welbeck, and I have criticised him much, also produced a game of a level that I did not expect of him. His away goal may yet prove decisive and was extremely well taken. Van Persie had an off night I think, some of his touches less than his usual sublime, but I think he will snap out of that quickly.
I would not dwell on RVP’s missed chance towards the end, for if I counted this as unfortunate, I would have to look at all the goals Madrid could have scored. In terms of who controlled the game, Utd probably did not deserve a 1-1 draw. But when they had their chance, they got one. That says enough and Madrid well now have to travel to Manchester and produce. The game was difficult, and likely extremely draining, but it is ADVANTAGE UTD as we go into the second half of the tie. The foundations are in place and on March 5, Utd have the tools to finish the job. Let us hope.
After all that excitement, we shall need some more and it will be found in Utd’s next game, FA Cup action against Reading. It’s on Monday, so plenty of time to rest and I think we can say a result is more than possibly there.
Thoughts and comments on the Madrid encounter below. Surely a game this large will stir some feelings….