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Feb 13, 2013

United scores valuable 1-1 draw at Madrid

Danny Welbeck's first-half header ensured Manchester United left the Bernabeu with a precious away goal from a thrilling 1-1 Champions League encounter with Real Madrid.

But former United star Cristiano Ronaldo also left his mark on the last-16 tie with a brilliant equalizing header. Ronaldo also came close with a dipping 40-yard free kick, while David de Gea needed to produce excellent saves to twice deny Fabio Coentrao and the outstanding Mesut Ozil.

"Fortunately, David De Gea made some very good saves. He's been improving all season and he made an absolutely superb save there," United manager Alex Ferguson said.

With its bewildering movement, Real had the capacity to cut its opponents' defense to shreds. Rafael in particular had a torrid time as Ronaldo roamed the visitors' defense, with Ozil providing impressive support.

Angel Di Maria cut inside from his right-wing station and flashed a shot wide before de Gea brilliantly denied Coentrao with a fingertip save to push the full-back's effort onto the post.

On their first meaningful attack, the Red Devils got their noses in front. Welbeck shrugged off Sergio Ramos' attentions, them climbed to turn home Wayne Rooney's corner from six yards.

"We began very strong and suddenly they scored and the match took on another form for us," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said.

The pity for United was that its lead lasted just 10 minutes. That Ronaldo should get the equalizer was no shock at all given his tally of 182 goals in 179 games for the Spanish giants prior to this showdown. The way he hung above Patrice Evra before heading Di Maria's cross past de Gea was reminiscent of the Portugal superstar's goal for United in the 2008 final.

His reaction was subdued. He was mobbed by ecstatic teammates and he emerged from the huddle to wave at the Madrid fans before an almost apologetic hand was waved at the visitors' bench.

"I was in Manchester for six years so tonight was very emotional for me," the Portuguese said. "I scored a goal but I didn't celebrate out of respect."

The last time these two teams met at the Bernabeu was in 2003 when Madrid emerged 3-1 winners. But it has been 11 years since Madrid played a knockout Champions League match without goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who was out because of a broken hand and replaced by Diego Lopez.

In the second period, United had de Gea to thank for not falling behind. He was the only one alive to the danger as Coentrao crept in at the far post to meet Sami Khedira's deep cross, instinctively kicking the ball away from his goal line.

Throughout all the mayhem, Robin van Persie had been a peripheral figure. It looked like his moment had arrived 15 minutes from time though when, after Lopez had touched his effort onto a post, the Dutchman found himself on his own inside the box as Michael Carrick headed the ball back in.

As Lopez lunged in desperately, van Persie tried to volley in, only to mis-hit the shot, allowing Xabi Alonso to clear off the line.

"They came here to defend well," Mourinho said. "They came here to not concede spaces and goals, and they did not play to win. But they know they have in attack very important players with great potential that out of nothing can create chances and score goals."

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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