Real Madrid Eliminates United in Champions League
MANCHESTER, England – Just like 10 years ago, Ronaldo scored at Old Trafford to advance Real Madrid in the Champions League and eliminate Manchester United.
Back then it was the Brazilian Ronaldo, who scored a memorable hat trick.
This time it was Cristiano Ronaldo, back at United for the first time since leaving four years ago. The Portuguese forward opted not to celebrate the goal that gave the nine-time champions a 2-1 victory Tuesday night and their third straight quarterfinals berth.
“I am happy inside because Madrid got through,” Ronaldo said after the 3-2 aggregate win. “But on the other hand, I feel a little bit sad because of Manchester United.”
United took a 2-1 lead in the total-goal series when Nani’s cross in the 48th minute deflected in off a leg of Sergio Ramos for an own goal. The game started to turn when Nani received a red card from Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir in the 56th minute for a studs-up, flying challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. United manager Alex Ferguson charged out of his seat and down to the sideline to vent his anger.
Luka Modric cut to his right across the top of the penalty area in the 66th and tied the game and the aggregate with a 25-yard shot that eluded the left hand of diving goalkeeper David De Gea and went in off a post. It was just the second goal for Modric since Real Madrid bought him from Tottenham last summer.
Ronaldo scored three minutes later, getting past Rafael da Silva and sliding to tap in a cross from Gonzalo Higuain. Ronaldo reached 40 goals for the third consecutive season.
“Mentally it was not easy for Ronaldo,” Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said.
Ferguson was so angered by the decision to eject Nani that he skipped the post-match news conference and sent assistant Mike Phelan.
“Everyone is wondering what had happened and why it happened,” Phelan said of the red card. “We had a very distraught dressing room and a very distraught manager – and that’s why I’m sat here in front of you now.”
Ryan Giggs, the 39-year-old midfielder making his 1,000th senior competitive appearance for Manchester United, Wales and the British Olympic team, angrily pointed at Cakir after the final whistle. Rio Ferdinand sarcastically clapped in his face.
Mourinho, viewed as a possible future replacement for the 71-year-old Ferguson, walked off the field early without celebrating the end of the match – a stark contrast to his famous run when his Porto team scored in the 90th minute to eliminate United in 2004.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t deserve to win,” Mourinho said. “I doubt that 11 against 11 we can win that match.”
“Independent of that,” he said of the red card, “the best team lost.”
Ronaldo starred for United from 2003-09, winning the FIFA Player of the Year award in 2008. United sold him to Real Madrid in June 2009 for 80 million pounds (then $131 million).
In addition to the Ronaldos, there were other similarities to the last meeting of the clubs at Old Trafford, in the second leg of the quarterfinals in 2003. A decade ago, Ferguson dropped David Beckham from his starting lineup and brought the midfielder on in the 63rd minute of the 6-5 aggregate loss. This time, Ferguson started Wayne Rooney on the bench, inserting England’s star forward only in the 73rd minute.
“Can’t believe (at) WayneRooney isn’t starting tonight!!!” wife Coleen Rooney tweeted.
Even Mourinho defended Ferguson’s tactics.
“Sir Alex won the right to have every decision acknowledged as correct and every decision should have no question mark,” Mourinho told reporters. “He is the best. He has created history. You are nobody and I am nobody to put a question mark in front. His team was very well organized.”
With Arsenal trailing Bayern Munich 3-1 going into the second leg in Germany next week, England is in danger of having no teams in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1995-96. Defending champion Chelsea and Manchester City were eliminated in the group stage.
In the night’s other match, Borussia Dortmund defeated Ukraine’s Shaktar Donetsk 3-0 to advance on 5-2 aggregate, getting goals from Felipe Santana in the 31st, Mario Goetze in the 37th and Jakub Blaszczykowski in the 59th.
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