Tonight's match between Spanish Football's Real Madrid and UK Premiership leaders Manchester United, at the Santiago Bernabeu, almost proved worthy of its build up, but fizzled in the second half, and ended up as another fail for Real coach Jose Mourinho and his embattled Merengues. Real's 1-1 home tie, with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Danny Welbeck was just what the doctor ordered for the Red Devils and quite what the Spanish physician must have warned against for the Madridistas.
Despite a rag-tag defense, and the now routine lack of a repeat line-up, Real began the game with a purpose ManU could not match. In all the Madrid side took 16 shots on goal to Manchester's three the first half. Yet, again, it was a set piece at the 20th minute that let Real down. Wayne Rooney curled a corner that Welbeck backtracked to reach and placed beautifully out of the reach of Diego Lopez. At that point the possession was Real 68% and ManU 32% and Fabio Coentrao had already forced a finger-tip-to-the-post save from David de Gea.
ManU took their share of possession back for a few minutes and seemed to be getting their footing. But ten minutes later, Ronaldo leaped at least three feet off the turf, towering over his marker and floating for days, until Angel di Maria's cross reached him. He then hit a textbook header outside de Gea's reach for the tie. Thereafter Real retook control and had a few other chances go begging but the teams reached the half-time mark tied up.
The second half was a different story. ManU decided to keep all men behind the ball and simply blocked all of Real moves for 45+3 minutes. Truth be told, Real had few creative moments and de Gea was up to the task of snuffing out what his defense let slip by. Also truthful was the fact that a Robin van Persie's botched shot at the 90+ minute almost managed to change the game, had Xabi Alonso not tracked back behind a beaten Lopez to clear at the goal line.
Now Real get to go to Old Trafford an away goal down and with reduced options. ManU is now in the driver's seat. But my prediction, despite this mostly poor performance by Real and only slightly better from Manchester, is that the Madridistas will be the ones celebrating at tie's end.
PSG 2 - Valencia 1
In other Spanish team Champions League performances, PSG beat host Valencia 2-1 at the Mestalla to take a commanding lead in their tie. The return leg in Paris will not feature Zlatan Ibrahimoic, though. He had a bad temper moment and committed a silly but well earned cleats-first red-card offense toward the end of the match.