It's David's night, not Ronaldo's

On a Bernabeu pitch filled with stellar attacking talent, it was the Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea who was the star of the show as the Champions League tie ended in a draw for United.

AFP | FEBRUARY 16, 2013, 10:18 AM IST

"It is your night," ran the headline of Madridsports daily Marca next to a giant picture of Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of thestar's first encounter with Manchester United, the club he left three and ahalf years ago.

Ronaldo, almost inevitably, did have his moment as he soaredabove a stranded Patrice Evra at the back post to majestically head home hisseventh Champions League goal in as many games this season. But on a pitchfilled with stellar attacking talent, it was a Spanish goalkeeper making areturn of his own, to his home city, who was the star of the show as theChampions League tie ended 1-1.

David De Gea had only ever suffered heartbreak, as mostAtletico Madrid keepers do, against Real Madrid in his time with Real's cityrivals. But just five minutes into the widely-anticipated Champions Leaguelast-16 tie he diverted Fabio Coentrao's goal bound effort onto the post tokeep United from sinking under an early Madrid storm.

Once that initial burst had been weathered, it was they whofound the net first as the Spanish champions' Achilles heel for the past twoseasons, defending set-pieces, was again exposed as Danny Welbeck directedWayne Rooney's corner into the net. Ten minutes later the moment United fearedduly arrived as Ronaldo hung in the air a good three feet above his formerFrench colleague to glance in a header so accurate even De Gea couldn't reachit.

With the tide now turned again, Madrid charged forward.Mesut Ozil, so key in Los Blancos' revival in recent weeks, starting to findthe space between the lines in which he dazzles and with one right-footed driveforced De Gea into another fine save. The hosts continued to buzz around thepitch at the start of the second period with great fervour, this time withAngel di Maria to the fore as the Argentine tested De Gea's impeccable handlingbefore pulling another effort just wide that would surely have had the keeperbeaten.

Coentrao, the man who has just one goal in his whole RealMadrid career, was then left wondering how he didn't have two for the night asDe Gea stretched out a long gangly leg to unconventionally turn away thePortuguese full-back's back-post effort from Sami Khedira's cross.

However, despite the fuss made over United having to play 18hours later than their hosts at the weekend, it was the visitors who will feelthey should have taken an advantage back to Old Trafford in three weeks' timeafter three Robin Van Persie chances in the final quarter. The Dutchman wasunlucky with his first opportunity as a rasping angled right-footed shot cameback off the crossbar.

Both managers were content afterwards in knowing there isstill a long way to go in deciding who will progress. "It's still 50-50and I think it will go down to the last minute," said Mourinho.

Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, went as far as to say he thinksMadrid will score at Old Trafford. With all eight of Madrid's defeats thisseason having come on the road though, United can return to Manchesterconfident that the hardest part of the job has been done.

Share this