Real Madrid and Manchester United are locked in a 1-1 draw after the first leg, and United hold a slight edge having scored an away goal at the Bernebau two weeks ago. Real heads to Old Trafford needing to score and flush with confidence having beaten Barcelona twice in the span of seven days. Easily the Champion’s Leagues most enticing match up, I have decided to track the action as it unfolds.
2:42 Mourinho saunters to the touch line moments before the Champion’s League anthem, quite possibly a close second to the Star Spangled Banner for charging the emotions. Mourinho has lost to Fergie only twice, and his imperious smirk says as much.
2:45 Real kicks off in Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford. United fans applaud the Portuguese super hero, who has vowed not to celebrate should he score.
2:49 United compact and content, and Real patient. Old Man Giggs fouls on the outskirts of the box setting up a theatrical free kick from Ronaldo. He stands erect, legs spread and basks in the moment for an interminable period of time before hammering the free kick harmlessly into the wall.
2:52 Real turn a foul into a corner kick, but DiMaria’s service is subpar.
2:55 Tom Cleverly becomes the first player to fake an injury bringing the game to a screeching halt before resuming play moments later at full speed. Right out of the break, Real muster some tidy one touch football in the box before Higuain blasts a shot high and wide.
2:58 First shot of United talisman Wayne Rooney on the bench is followed by United’s first threat, a half decent cross that wins a corner and a crappy corner easily cleared. United keep the pressure up and RVP volleys a brilliant Giggs pass off Ramos for a corner. Again, cleared uneventfully.
3:03 United come as close as you can to scoring without actually doing so on the corner, hitting the post and then hitting Diego Lopez as he was lying flat on his back. High drama, but no goal.
3:12 United have looked more menacing with the vertical running of Danny Welbeck, but Ronaldo seems to be warming up to the game with two quarter chances that drew high voice from Gus Johnson. The sequence ends with Real wasting two corners.
3:19 Two brilliant reaction saves from Lopez (RVP and Welbeck). Lopez punches Vidic in the face on the ensuing corner and falls to the ground feigning injury.
3:22 Higuian with some “look coach I’m hustling” incoherent one man pressure.
3:24 Varane draws a spontaneous wtf! Sending a long diagonal pass off the pitch. Real look stagnant and cumbersome. I blame the all green away kit.
3:28 DiMaria limps off with an apparent hamstring injury and Kaka warms up. Real carries on with ten, and Gus Johnson compares United’s defense to a compacted match up zone.
3:30 Mourinho walks off early to contemplate tactical changes and the half ends 0-0. United advance if nothing changes.
Halftime observations. Neither team has looked very good or asserted any control over the match. This favors United, but the game desperately needs a goal. Ronaldo has not been involved enough, and my gut is not optimistic about the introduction of Kaka.
3:49 Second half begins and Sergio Ramos produces a vomit-inducing own goal. Real still need to score, but this would only force extra time. Immediate speculation of Mourinho’s status, current and future, begins.
3:55 Real’s pace of play has picked up, but it lacks the cutting edge evidenced by no one getting on to Higuain’s cross. Nani and Arbeloa involved in a mid-air clash. Nani is shown red in what could be a decisive moment. Poor call. Fergie, red-faced storms/stumbles from his seat to blow hot air onto the pitch. Real must drive ahead now.
3:59 Kaka skies a shot into the crowd. Mourinho pushes his chips to the center of the table replacing Arbeloa (sitting on yellow himself) with Modric.
4:03 Stomach is knotting as Real press the attack with a collection of corners and crosses. Must maintain a varied attack.
4:05 United flip the field and RVP draws a save from distance.
4:07 Modric dances along the top of the box and rockets an equlaizer off the post. 1-1. If this holds, extra time is coming.
4:10 Modric-Higuain-Ozil-Higuian-Ronaldo GOAL!!!! 2-1. 3-2 aggregate including two away goals. United need two to go through. Red card has been devastating to United, and it was a bad call.
4:14 Rooney on. United in the Real box and not going quietly.
4:19 Real not built for the tiki taka football required of this moment, but the margin for error is considerable.
4:21 A pair of United shots go awry. Ashley Young for Welbeck, who was very good tonight.
4:23 Lopez with a terrific save on a Carrick header. He has been immense tonight. United all in. Lopez snuffs RVP at close range. Rooney over the bar. Six minutes plus injury time.
4:27 Real clears and musters three soft shots. I’d prefer some possession.
4:28 Valencia for Rafael. Pepe a dumb yellow.
4:31 Kaka caps a nice piece of open field play with a clever near post shot that almost trickles free of De Gea. Old Trafford…..five minutes of injury time.
4:32 Lopez again with a great save. Man of the match for me.
4:36 Mourinho leaves the field seconds before the final whistle.
Final Thoughts: Horrible red card changed the complection of the game, but Mourinho was quick to sieze the moment and press the ill-gotten advantage bringing on Modric, who was involved in both goals. Hala Madrid!