Real Madrid fought back from a goal down to level their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg with Manchester United on Wednesday thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against his former club. Ronaldo cancelled out Danny Welbeck’s earlier strike and ensured Madrid go into the game at Old Trafford in three weeks time on level terms.
It could have been very different for Mourinho’s men however as they created the majority of chances and but for some sensational stops from United’s David De Gea, the home team could have ended the tie on the night. The Spanish stopper expertly denied Fabio Coentrao twice before pushing Sami Khedira’s fierce shot away late on.
Madrid pushed United onto the back foot early on with Ronaldo, Alonso and Di Maria shooting from distance, but United gradually took to the game. The visitors earned a flurry of corners and Danny Welbeck took full advantage of Real’s frailties at the back by holding off Sergio Ramos to nod home on 20 minutes for a vital away goal. Sir Alex Ferguson smelt blood and opted to play an attacking formation with Van Persie, Rooney and Welbeck all starting from the beginning.
Real continued to dominate however and Ronaldo inevitably struck to haunt his former team after half an hour. From Di Maria’s delivery, Ronaldo leapt with the spring of a basketball player and guided the ball into the bottom corner, reminiscent of his goal in the Champions League final back in 2008 for United.
At 1-1 the tie is set up perfectly for the return leg in Manchester as ‘the game the world wants to see’, as Jose Mourinho described, increases in intensity with both teams in with a chance of progressing.
The same can’t be said for Valencia though as they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to PSG on Tuesday. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore scored first half goals to give the French club a two goal lead going into the home leg but in the dying moments Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw red and Adil Rami scored to give Valencia a faint hope in the second encounter.
Atletico Madrid also face an uphill task in their second leg of their Europa League tie with Rubin Kazan after their 2-0 defeat in Russia. The odds will be high should you choose to still back Atletico to progress to the next round at www.coral.co.uk but stranger things have certainly happened. In the midweek defeat, Gokdeniz Karadeniz opened the scoring after 6 minutes and the score stayed that way until stoppage time in the second half. Sergio Asenjo ran up to attack a last minute corner but the danger was cleared for Rubin and Pablo Orbaiz raced upfield to double their lead easily thanks to Courtois’ absence. The current holders were 20 games unbeaten at home and have a 100% record there this season and will hope Falcao can help overturn the two goal deficit away from the fortress Calderon.
Levante however annihilated Greek club Olympiakos at home 3-0 to give them a great chance of making the next round. Pedro Rios gave the Valencians an early lead before Javier Barkero made it 2-0 from the penalty spot. Obafemi Martins then missed another spot-kick but atoned for his mistake by notching a third goal 10 minutes after half-time.
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