For any football fan, yesterday was an exciting and action packed day. Two massive games with massive implications.
United went into a hostile Bernabeu and were somehow able to sneak away with a draw and a vital away goal. It might have been two away goals had the legendary Ryan Giggs decided to hit a certain one time shot on his favored left foot rather than try and dribble around a few Real Madrid defenders first. Let’s be clear. Real Madrid had the better of the game. They were dangerous, exciting and certainly in the mood to put a beating on the English giants. That being said, Manchester United put in a solid defensive performance perfectly exhibited by the goalkeeper’s lights out show. David De Gea, the uncertain wonder, the “weak link” in a championship caliber Manchester United side, had himself in prime form. You knew in the first five minutes. The first full stretch finger tip save that he careened off the post set the tone for him for the rest of the game. He was a bit shaky on commanding his box during corners and set pieces but he came up massive when United needed it most. People say that he still needed to show why he deserved to be United’s future goalkeeper and at the ripe young age of 22, I think he has stamped his place in the first XI.
Ronaldo was brilliant in the first half. He was active, around the ball all-the time and he put the fear of god into each United defender’s eyes. I think it helped a bit that Raphael was having an absolute shocker, but still, Ronaldo came to play as shown by a perfectly timed, out of his shoes rise for the goal that knotted the game at 1. It would finish that way but it could have been different. Giggs could have scored, Van Persie had a chance cleared off the line by a recovering Xabi Alonso. Everything considered this game set the tone for an epic second leg at Old Trafford.
Dortmund. The Champion’s League dominators, undefeated in the Champion’s league and still remain that way. Shakhtar took the lead with a majestic free-kick that evaded the wall and blew past a diving Weidenfeller. It was a bit of luck and accidental creativity that brought the game even. Lewandowski found a bouncing ball in the box and when his attempt at a swift volley completely whiffed, two Shakhtar defenders found themselves smashing into each other, leaving the assassin with a wide open opportunity to slot the ball home. Which he did elegantly into the bottom right corner. It wouldn’t end there. A superb lapse in defending allowed a sixty yard ball to beat everyone and a cool , explosive finish from Douglas Costa put the home side up 2-1. It took until an 87th minute header from Mats Hummels to knot the game at two. It would end that way and Dortmund would keep their incredible run of Champion’s League success. They have set themselves up perfectly for their home leg.
Predictions? Manchester United has a vital away goal. Real Madrid will come to Old Trafford and open the game, with brilliant pace and counter-attack football. If in the first half there is no breakthrough, they will be forced to change their style and get at United. This leaves the counter open for United and I can see a certain RVP putting a winner away to sent Madrid and Mourinho packing.
Dortmund is set. They are through. The home leg is a formality and I could see them making a run at the cup, especially because the Bundesliga title is out of reach. It has been an exciting week of Champion’s league soccer. Next week will be brilliant and the return legs will bring me to the edge of my seat.