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UEFA Champions League: Manchester United 1 Real Madrid 2 (agg. 2-3)

Real Madrid booked their Champions League quarter-final place with a dramatic 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

With the tie finely balanced at 1-1 following the first leg in Spain, United struck first through an own-goal by Sergio Ramos early in the second half.

But the game turned on its head after Nani was sent off in the 56th minute for a high boot in a challenge with Alvaro Arbeloa. The United winger appeared to be challenging for the ball and certainly meant no harm to Arbeloa, but the consequence of his dismissal was that the home side’s gameplan, which had worked so well to that point, was ruined.

Real Madrid used their man advantage and sealed the aggregate victory with two goals in three minutes. Substitute Luka Modric equalised with a stunning strike from 25 yards before Cristiano Ronaldo slid in at the far post to break the hearts of supporters who gave him a hero’s reception before kick-off.

The result completes a wonderful week for the Spanish giants following two wins over bitter rivals Barcelona.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson predicted an attacking game but set out to stifle Real and counter-attack, with his plan working almost perfectly in the first half as they restricted the visitors and came closest to opening the scoring.

United captain Nemanja Vidic thought he had scored in the 21st minute but his thumping header from Ryan Giggs’ corner rattled against the post before Danny Welbeck, from an offside position, mishit the rebound straight at Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

In the 34th minute, Lopez was again forced in to action as he made a hash of his attempt to save Robin van Persie’s shot from a tight angle and had to react quickly to deflect Welbeck’s rebound over the crossbar with his shoulder.

But the hosts had to wait less than three minutes after the break to take the lead.

After Real defenders blocked two United shots in the penalty area, the ball landed at Nani’s feet on the left. The Portuguese winger played the ball into the box and, after the faintest touch off Welbeck, Ramos could only turn it into his own net.

The turning point, however, came in the 56th minute when Nani was shown a straight red card by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for a high foot in a 50-50 challenge with Arbeloa. The decision left Ferguson and the United players fuming with the officials.

Real coach Jose Mourinho responded to the man advantage by bringing on Modric for Arbeloa and the former Tottenham midfielder levelled the score in the 66th minute. After picking the ball up 30 yards from goal, Modric breezed past Tom Cleverley and struck a thunderous effort in off the post from 25 yards.

Three minutes later, Real took the lead for the first time in the tie. Higuain fizzed a low cross along the six-yard box and Ronaldo used all of his predatory instincts to slide in at the far post.

United swarmed forward but their task to score two goals with a man down always seemed unlikely, Real holding firm to progress to the last eight.

Tue 5 March, 2013
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