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Thrilling Ties Define Day Two Of Champions League Quarterfinals

Henry Foster Rubenstein |
February 13, 2013 | 9:10 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real Madrid's lone goal. (Alejandro Ramos/Creative Commons)
Cristiano Ronaldo scored Real Madrid's lone goal. (Alejandro Ramos/Creative Commons)

Day Two of the Champions League Quarterfinals lived up to the hype, as both matches featured top teams playing in excellent form. No winners resulted on the day as Real Madrid played Manchester United to a thrilling 1-1 tie and Borussia Dortmund drew Shakhtar Donetsk drew 2-2 on some late-game heroics. Both matches mirrored the intensity of the finals as each team understood the magnitude and importance their performances will have on the soccer world.

The matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester United may have been one of the most anticipated matches in recent history. Not only have the clubs not faced each other in five years, but the game also marked the first time Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo would face his old club and former coach/mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson.

As expected, the game got off to a very fast start as United keeper David De Gea was forced to make a beautiful diving save in the first few minutes off of a close shot from Ronaldo. The two teams then exchanged chances back and forth, until Danny Welbeck sent a header flying into the back of the net to put United up. For a moment, things looked very bright for the Red Devils. But Ronaldo’s willpower seemed to be too much, as he sent a header whizzing into the goal ten minutes later.

It seemed that Real Madrid was in the right form to pull off a victory, but as dominant and aggressive Ronaldo appeared in the first half, he didn’t produce much in second, leaving teammates Angel DiMaria and Xabi Alonso to carry the team. Although the second half of the match didn’t feature any goals, there was still plenty of excitement. Both teams were able to produce chances to score, but time and time again the goalkeepers came in to save the day.

United keeper De Gea may have played the match of his life, recording seven crucial saves out of the eight shots Real Madrid had on target. Madrid keeper Diego Lopez, filling in for the injured Iker Casillas, did not appear intimidated by the big stage, as he too looked fantastic in the back.

Despite Ronaldo’s goal, the stars of this showdown were kept pretty quiet. Man U’s forwards Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie appeared to be a non-factor for most of the game. Van Persie had an amazing opportunity to give United the late win, but came up short as Madrid’s Lopez was able to push his shot wide. The miss off of Van Persie’s left foot is very uncharacteristic of him and left many fans in shock.

When the teams meet again in March at Old Trafford in Manchester, expect more of the same. My prediction is that the match will end in a 2-2 draw, allowing Madrid to advance on away goals. Despite great efforts from United’s defense to shut down Ronaldo, expect him to have one of those goals. In lieu of their absence this game, Rooney and Van Persie will score for United.

Dortmund Earns a Late Draw

Shakhtar vs. Dortmund was expected to be a good match, but got nowhere near the publicity of Real-Man U. Regardless of who was watching, the two teams put on quite the show as the lead changed four times. Ukraine's Shakhtar, which hasn’t played competitively since the group stage ended in December, took an early lead off of a free kick from striker Darijo Srna. It only took Robert Lewandowski of Germany's Dortmund ten minutes to level the score at 1-1. Both teams had great chances before the half, but neither team could finish.

It appeared Shakhtar made the right movesd during the break, as substitute Douglas Costa gave the home team the lead back in the 68th minute.  For the next 30 minutes, it seemed as if the Ukranian side was going to pull off the victory, as Dortmund’s shots were swatted off one by one by Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov.

Finally, with only three minutes left in regulation, Dortmund’s Mat Hummel’s sent one blasting into the goal off a corner, tying the game and giving his team a very important away goal that may end up being the deciding factor of this quarterfinal. Come the second leg, expect Shaktar to have eliminated the small mistakes and increase their attack, as they only produced 8 shots today to Dortmund’s 17.  It's likely Dortmund will bring a similar game plan, but put an emphasis on not letting up easy chances in the back. 

The first week of the Champions League quarterfinal brought plenty to talk about, but the second week (on paper) seems to have much more potential. The highlighted games include Arsenal traveling to Germany to take on the Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, and AC Milan flying over to Spain to face former champions Barcelona. Although many feel Bayern is about to walk all over the North London side, don’t count Arsenal out just yet, as you never know which Gunners team will decide to show up. Barcelona will be looking for an easy walk into the semi-finals, but AC Milan has the ability to knock out the top Spanish club. 



Reach Staff Reporter Henry Foster Rubenstein here.



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