Photo: Real Madrid
Two of the titans of European soccer, Real Madrid and Manchester United, fought to a 1-1 tie here Wednesday in the first leg of their contest for a spot in the Champions League quarterfinals.
More than 83,000 fans - including 5,000 Man United stalwarts who made the trip from Britain - packed into Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium for what promised to be a magical night.
With the Blancos already out of contention for the La Liga crown, Real Madrid players and supporters see the Champions League as a chance to redeem a disappointing season.
The occasion had special significance for Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who became a star during his years with Man United.
The Blancos carried the play in the early minutes and would have taken the lead in the 6th minute but for a brilliant save by Madrid native David De Gea, who deflected Fabio Coentrao’s shot at the last second.
Taking advantage of poor defending, United’s Danny Welbeck put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute on a header set up by Wayne Rooney’s corner kick.
Real Madrid responded by ramping up its attack, with Angel Di Maria leading several rushes before delivering a cross to Ronaldo, who outjumped Patrice Evra and seemed to hang in the air before beating De Gea with a header to even the score.
The visitors turned cautious after the tying goal.
The Blancos got more chances, but were thwarted again and again by De Gea, whose sterling play on Wednesday may silence some of his critics in England.
The second leg is set for March 5 at Old Trafford.
Borussia Dortmund managed a 2-2 away draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in Wednesday’s other Champions League clash.