Soccer

Real Madrid eliminates Man United from Champions League

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Associated Press
3/5/2013 8:11:25 PM
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MANCHESTER, England -- Just like 10 years ago, a Ronaldo scored at Old Trafford to send Real Madrid through 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, who was on the score sheet. And the Portugal forward opted not to celebrate the goal that clinched a 2-1 victory Tuesday for the nine-time champions and a place in the quarterfinals for the third season running.

"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."

The last-16 encounter had been pointing toward a United win at the start of the second half when Sergio Ramos deflected Nani's cross into his own net to give the hosts a 2-1 aggregate lead.

But the game swung back in Madrid's favour in the 56th minute when Nani was sent off for a studs-up, flying challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa.

Madrid took control of the last-16 encounter with two goals in three minutes, with Luka Modric netting a powerful equalizer off the post in the 66th before Ronaldo's 40th goal of the season.

The goal devastated the home fans who had cheered Ronaldo before his first match at Old Trafford since swapping Manchester for Madrid for a world record 80 million pounds (then $131 million) in 2009.

"Mentally it was not easy for Ronaldo," Madrid manager Jose Mourinho said.

But a night that started with affection for Ronaldo and a 1,000th career appearance for United's Ryan Giggs, ended in acrimony from the hosts aggrieved by the red card.

At the final whistle, Giggs was angrily pointing at referee Cuneyt Cakir as Rio Ferdinand sarcastically clapped in his face, and manager Alex Ferguson made his fury clear on the touchline.

It was a defeat that was hard to take for United -- and there was sympathy from Mourinho.

A man so often linked with one day replacing the 71-year-old Ferguson at Old Trafford endeared himself to the United crowd by walking off the pitch without celebrating, in stark contrast to his charge down the touchline during a win as FC Porto manager here in 2004.

"We didn't play well, we didn't deserve to win," Mourinho said. "Independent of that (the red card) the best team lost."

Ferguson was so angered by the sending off that he didn't face the media after the match, sending assistant Mike Phelan in his place.

"We had thought we had got the tactics right in game, which was such a big occasion -- we felt as though we were comfortable at times," Phelan said.

"Everyone is wondering what had happened and why it happened," he added. "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."

There was a big gamble by Ferguson before the match, dropping a star from the starting line-up just like 10 years ago.

For David Beckham in 2003, read Wayne Rooney in 2013.

Even Rooney's wife expressed dismay at the decision, with Coleen tweeting: "Can't believe (at) WayneRooney isn't starting tonight!!!"

Ferguson claimed earlier it was a tactical decision -- and even Mourinho weighed in to defend the manager in another sign of diplomacy from the former Chelsea manager at the club he could work for one day.

"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."

The team just couldn't find a way past goalkeeper Diego Lopez, apart from the own goal.

Giggs was the creator of the early efforts, with a Robin van Persie's attempt bundled clear by Ramos and Danny Welbeck's rebound smothered by the goalkeeper after Nemanja Vidic headed against the post.

Lopez was beaten by his own player in the 48th after Raphael Varane gave the ball away on the byline and Nani seized possession before whipping in a cross that Ramos turned into his own.

Fortune didn't appear to be favouring Madrid, but that was reversed inside 10 minutes with Nani's red card.

A furious Ferguson charged down from his seat in the elevated dugout to the touchline, and tried to whip the crowd up into a frenzy.

Instead, Madrid's spirits were raised, with Modric scoring seven minutes after replacing Arbeloa.

The Croatia midfielder cut to his right across the top of the penalty area and unleashed a 25-yard shot that eluded the left hand of diving goalkeeper David De Gea and went in off a post.

Modric helped to create the second, with Mesut Ozil then releasing Higuain, who sent a low cross across the penalty area. At the far post, Ronaldo was primed to slide in past Rafael and tap the ball into the net.

United's response was to replace Tom Cleverley with Rooney but the hosts were repeatedly thwarted by Lopez.

As Madrid's quest for a 10th European title goes on, United's bid to win No. 4 at Wembley Stadium in May is over.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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