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All square in Champions League knockout ties

Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real Madrid's equaliser in their 1-1 Champions League draw with former-club Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real Madrid’s equaliser in their 1-1 Champions League draw with former-club Manchester United

Wednesday’s Champions League first leg knockout games produced two draws leaving both ties evenly balanced.

Real Madrid and Manchester United drew 1-1 at the Bernabeu, while Shakhtar Donetsk and Dortmund drew 2-2 at the Donbass Arena.

Open

I have to admit I didn’t expect the Real-United game to be so open. I expected United to attempt to just defend and hit the Spanish side on the counter attack.

However, United hit Real on the counter-attack far more often than I expected.

Sir Alex Ferguson has to be praised for what could have been seen as a very attacking team selection. His team selection paid off though on 20 minutes, Danny Welbeck guiding home a superb header from a Wayne Rooney corner kick to give United the lead.

United were in the lead for just ten minutes and it’s not hard to guess who scored the equaliser. Angel di Maria picked the ball up on the wing fired in a superb cross and Cristiano Ronaldo produced a Michael Jordan-esque hang in the air to plant a powerful header past David de Gea. The former-United stars celebrations of his goal were respectful.

Maturing

Last night’s game could be a key one in the career of one David de Gea. The young Spaniard returning to his home city produced some vital saves. He denied Fabio Coentrao within the first few minutes of the game and kept Real at bay for the rest of the game.

The young keeper has been criticised in the past by pundits and fans alike maybe this performance will be a stepping stone in his career. Nobody has ever doubted his shot-stopping ability, but maybe now he can play with a bit more confidence, after such a superb display in a major game.

Chances

Both teams had chances to add to their tallies. Robin van Persie was denied by the woodwork, Diego Lopez and Xabi Alonso in the second half and Coentrao brought out a superb stop from De Gea.

Towards the end both managers made substitutions that suggested that they were settling for the draw though, despite the late chances.

Even

This tie is now really evenly balanced, as Jose Mourinho stated after the match its’50-50’ on who progresses. United will be happy to have claimed an away goal, but Real are more than capable of going to Old Trafford and scoring.

The score line makes for a fascinating second leg in Manchester in three weeks’ time. The second leg at Old Trafford is sure to be crucial one in both Real and United’s seasons. It could even dictate the future of Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, so watch this space.

Entertaining

The other Champions League tie from Wednesday evening produced an entertaining 2-2 draw between Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and German champions Dortmund at the Donbass Arena.

Dortmund were billed as favourites for this tie, largely due to the home side losing star player Willian to Russian club Anji in the January transfer window. However, it was the Ukrainians that drew first blood on 31 minutes.

Croatian utility man Darijo Srna curled home a 25 yard free-kick to open the scoring, although Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller probably should of have done better with the effort.

Dortmund equalised just before half-time. Polish international Robert Lewandowski mis-controlled the ball, only for it to create space for himself to fire home. Dortmund started the brighter in the second half, but Shakhtar looked dangerous on the counter.

It was the home side that struck next on 68 minutes. Dmitri Chygrynsky played a long ball forward that Mats Hummels couldn’t clear, and Douglas Costa controlled the ball before firing superbly past Weidenfeller in the Dortmund goal.

It looked like the home side were set to claim a crucial victory, but Dortmund had other ideas as the German side equalised on 87 minutes. Centre-back Hummels atoned for his earlier mistake by heading home the equaliser from Marcel Schmelzer’s corner kick.

Favourites

Dortmund remains favourites for this tie and the two away goals should help Jurgen Klopp’s side into the quarter-finals. However, as Shakhtar proved at the Donbass Arena they have the players that can punish opposition teams on the counter-attack.

Both these teams impressed in the group stages and some are even predicting that Dortmund could win the competition. Klopp’s charges will have to get past Shakhtar first and that will be no easy task.

Who will make it into the quarter-finals of the Champions League?

Thu 14 February, 2013
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