In an enthralling encounter that spoke highly of the real technical quality and exciting football prevalent at the pinnacle of European football it ended Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
Danny Welbeck and Cristiano Ronaldo (who else) scored the goals at the Santiago Bernabeu, and both managers emerged satisfied with the result and confident their team can finish it off in what should be a brilliant game at Old Trafford on March 5th.
As the dust settles, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting statistics from the game and see what they reveal:
Shoot to kill
Real Madrid had 28 attempts on goal during the game, exactly 14 on target and 14 off target.
This was significantly higher than their season average of 21.14 attempts on goal, but 2 attempts lower than their record high in this season’s Champions League. Manchester United for their part had 13 attempts, one lower than their season average to date.
Keepers at work
Both keepers were put to work more than their used to at the Bernabeu. In a fine performance that had his critics in the English press purring, David de Gea made 8 saves – a huge increase on United’s season average of 2.86 saves per game in the Champions League.
Real Madrid’s keeper was also tested: Diego Lopez made 5 saves in his first European game since re-signing for Real Madrid – almost double the 2.57 seasonal average.
Thou shalt not pass
In a cagey game where space was often at a premium, both sides attempted significantly less passes than usual. Real Madrid attempted 443 passes to Manchester United’s 386 – way down on the Spanish champion’s 531 attempted pass season average.
United, not used to playing a more cautious, sit-back-and-take-what-you-can style, attempted a staggering 190 passes less than normal, completing just 241 (around 2.6 passes per minute!). The Red Devils’ 62% pass completion rate was also way down on their 75% season average.
Mesut Özil was at the heart of much of Real Madrid’s build-up play and good work. The German international attempted (70) and completed (46) passes – more than any other player in Jose Mourinho’s side, with a pass completion rate of 66%. His main passes of choice were to Angel di Maria (11) and Sami Khedira (10).
United cut the supply line
Interestingly, on the subject of passing distribution, Xabi Alonso did not complete a single pass to Cristiano Ronaldo on the night. So often the dictator of Real Madrid’s play, United’s midfield did a good job in cutting the Spaniard’s supply line.
The incisive Alonso ball from deep in midfield to the left hand side is usually a strong feature of Real’s play, aimed with the intention of playing their brilliant number 7 in one-on-one against his full back. Here however, Alonso could not find Ronaldo once.
For the Red Devils, Michael Carrick was once again instrumental, attempting 15 more passes than any other United player.
Sami Khedira’s 86% pass completion rate was comfortably the best on the pitch, but he didn’t manage a single pass to Karim Benzema, who was rather quiet on the night.
Ramos a lucky boy
Somehow, despite a cheeky elbow on Jonny Evans and some sneaky play at times, Sergio Ramos did not concede a single foul in the game, winning three himself in a refereeing performance that left something to be desired at times.
Not allowing United to take a corner in the final minute, when the ball went out of play at 92.31 seconds of 3 minutes minimum of additional play, was one of German referee Felix Brych’s stranger decisions on the night.
United under pressure but come out alive
Danny Welbeck’s goal from one of eight United corners gave the visitors the away goal they so desperately craved at the Bernabeu, frustrating Jose Mourinho who was critical of the ‘individual lost duels’ that cost them from the set piece.
But though United have hope, a clear indicator of the intense pressure they came under is evident in their statistic of just 21 deliveries / solo runs into the attacking third during the 90 minutes – almost half their seasonal average of 41.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be pleased with the organisation and defensive resilience his team showed in the Spanish capital, particularly given the relative youth and inexperience of players like Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Rafael.
But Manchester United are not used to sitting back, and with Real Madrid a fierce counter-attacking side on their day, the second leg on March 5th is now set up very nicely indeed.
(photo credit: rromer via Flickr)
(all stats via UEFA)