Real Madrid complete an astounding comeback at Old Trafford, after a Nani sending off for United which completely changed the flow of the game. Madrid started the match in control, but could only create a Gonzalo Higuain shot that curled wide of the post from the centre of the United box in the eleventh minute. Madrid couldn’t capitalize on their possession, and as United started to settle into the game, Madrid backed off and let United dictate the flow. United’s first chance came in the fifteenth minute, but when Robin van Persie latched on to an inch-perfect Ryan Giggs cross he was just off balance, and his volley was straight at Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez. United continued to dominate the match, and should have gone ahead in the nineteenth minute when Nemanja Vidic managed to get a head Ryan Giggs corner but his thumping header hit the top crossbar.
Slowly, Madrid tried to get back into the game and managed to do a pretty good job of it, almost scoring in the thirty-second minute when Higuain tapped the ball into the back of the net from four yards out. But referee Cunenyt Cakir called it back for a foul by Sergio Ramos on van Persie moments earlier. Despite a Nemanja Vidic header just flying over the bar in the the closing stages of the half, the first half ended 0-0.
The second half started in United’s favor and they amazingly got in front three minutes into the half through a Ramos own goal. It happened when Nani kept in a cross that flew over everything, and then hit a low cross from the edge of the Madrid penalty area that Ramos accidentally kicked in without knowing too much about it, to put United 1-0 up. United started to dominate, but in the sixty-fourth minute everything changed. A Madrid cross was cleared and the clearance fell just behind Nani who, while keeping his eyes on the ball, stuck out a leg waist high to trap the ball. Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa got to it first though, and Nani’s boot hit Arbeloa completely unintentionally and maybe deserved a yellow card form high boot . But when Nani got back up referee Cunenyt Cakir gave him a straight red card. Everybody on the field was stunned and United players swarmed Cakir, but Cakir kept firm on his decision.
The red card gave Madrid the hope they desperately needed, and they started to push ten men United back into their own half. Although the United defense kept strong, Madrid got an equalizer in the sixty-sixth minute through Luka Modric. Modric got the ball on twenty yards out from the United goal, took it past United midfielder Michael Carrick and hit a thundering shot that raddled off the inside of the post and managed to squeeze into the United net without much power left in the ball. With all of their energy returned, Madrid kept up their onslaught and managed to get a crucial goal only two minutes after Modric’s equalizer through Cristiano Ronaldo. It happened when Higuain gave the ball to Mesut Ozil inside the box, and Ozil flicked the ball back to Higuain who had made a run down the right hand side of the box and Higuain hit a low cross across the face of the United goal. It seemed like United defender Rafael would clear it, but the Brazilian who had done an outstanding job keeping Ronaldo out of the game switched off and allowed Ronaldo to tap it into the net from the back post.
Madrid started to sit back and defend after the second goal, and allowed Untied to attack them, for United needed two goals to advance to the Quarterfinals. United took advantage of their possession, and almost got an equalizer in the eightieth minute but Diego Lopez brilliantly stopped Michael Carrick’s near post header from a Giggs cross. United really started to apply pressure, and should have gotten an equalizer when van Perise was put in on the left side of the Madrid box, but his chip was brilliantly saved by an oncoming Lopez. But United committed too many men forward and when Ronaldo was in yards of space down the left he took the ball into the box and hit a hard shot to the near post. The shot had United goalkeeper David De Gea beaten, but it hit the post rebounded of De Gea’s back and the Spaniard scrambled to stop it from going in. In the final seconds of the match United got a corner, and Giggs’s in-swinger found the head of Vidic who’s thundering header was magnificently pushed aside by Lopez. The match ended 2-1 with Madrid advancing to the Quarterfinals of the 2012/2013 Champions League. United still pestered the referee about his big calls, which mostly favored Madrid, and he earned some sarcastic applause’s from United defender Rio Ferdinand.
Man of the Match: Diego Lopez