Champions League: United collapse, as Madrid and Ronaldo advance
By Rob Soria
Through fifty-five minutes of play, Manchester United had employed their game plan to perfection against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League matchup. That all changed in the fifty-sixth minute, when Nani was inexcusably shown a red card by referee Cuneyt Cak?r, turning the tide in Madrid's favour and their eventual 2-1 Madrid victory at Old Trafford.
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Edmonton - March 5, 2013 - Through fifty-five minutes of play, Manchester United had employed their game plan to perfection against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League matchup.
That all changed in the fifty-sixth minute, when Nani was inexcusably shown a red card by referee Cuneyt Cak?r, turning the tide in Madrid's favour and their eventual 2-1 Madrid victory at Old Trafford.
While that point can surely not be argued by even the staunchest of Madrid supporters, the fact United completely collapsed over a three minute span and allowed two goals was simply unacceptable. Are Sir Alex Ferguson and his men the only team to be wronged by a bad goal on the pitch? Hardly and they have had their fair share go the other way over the years.
Many a side have defended their way to safety with ten men on the pitch. It is far from uncommon occurrence and yet Manchester United could seemingly do nothing but watch Madrid do their thing.
It was an awful decision by the Turkish official to send Nani off for his studs high collision with Real's Alvaro Arbeloa but the call was made. Instead of rallying the troops and shutting down the Spanish Giants, they wilted like a flower.
However, it was not as though they needed a goal to secure their way through. They already received a lucky bounce in opening the scoring at the forty-eight minute mark, as Nani's cross glanced ever so slightly off Danny Welbeck, before Sergio Ramos inadvertently re-directed the ball into the back of his own net. Man U had their goal. They just needed to hang on.
Obviously, holding a side like Madrid at bay is tough enough to do with eleven on the pitch, never mind ten. That being said, from the moment the Portuguese midfielder was sent off, United looked defeated. It wasn't a matter of if Real would draw even but more a matter of when.
Odd considering they were by far and away the better side over the first fifty-five minutes. Hell, even Jose Mourinho felt as though his side didn't play well. After securing the victory and seeing his side move through to the next stage of the competition, Mourinho was not impressed.
"The best team lost, independent of the sending off," he told ITV Sport. "We didn't deserve to win and didn't play well.
And yet, they were able to score twice in a three minute span at Old Trafford. Former Tottenham Hotspur Luka Modric drew them level with a brilliant strike at the sixty-six minute mark, after coming onto the pitch for Arbeloa as a substitute just seven minutes earlier.
Madrid continued to pour it on and after a lovely give and go between Mesut Özil and Gonzalo Higuain, the talented Argentine sent a perfectly placed cross to the far post and the hard charging #7. The beautifully timed run from the Portuguese captain, gave him his second goal in as many games against his former side.
Despite finding the back of the net with the go ahead marker, Ronaldo refused to celebrate in his old stomping grounds and looked almost apologetic for having delivered the decisive blow. Kudos to him for holding true to his word but Manchester United need to look themselves in the mirror for completely falling apart.
Was it an unfortunate call that changed the outcome of the match? Certainly but United played a much bigger role in their collapse, than they will ever willingly admit.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at email@example.com
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