Soccer

Schweinsteiger equalizer earns Bayern Munich draw with Man U

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The Canadian Press
4/1/2014 5:19:37 PM
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MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United confounded grim pre-game predictions by drawing 1-1 with Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday, with Bastian Schweinsteiger equalizing for the holders before being sent off.

Floundering in the English Premier League, United has delivered better performances in Europe this season and stunned Bayern by taking the lead against the run of play through Nemanja Vidic's header in the 58th minute.

Bayern had dominated possession but struggled to create a clear-cut chance before Schweinsteiger arrowed a half-volley high into the net in the 67th to give the German side a slight advantage ahead of the second leg in Munich next week.

"We score away, so it's good," Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said. "I'm happy with the result."

Schweinsteiger blotted his performance by picking up a second yellow card in the 90th minute for a foul on Wayne Rooney and will miss the return match along with fellow midfielder Javi Martinez, who will also be suspended for an accumulation of bookings.

Guardiola warned that talk of United's demise was premature -- and the man who turned Barcelona into the best team in the world from 2008-12 has proved to be a good judge of football over the past few years.

The English champions are languishing in seventh place in the Premier League amid a disastrous first year under new manager David Moyes, but they have an envious European pedigree and didn't buckle under constant pressure from Bayern.

Defending stoutly -- with Vidic and right back Phil Jones particularly impressive -- United had 174 passes in the game compared to Bayern's 701 but actually created the better of the chances. Danny Welbeck will rue the moment he was sent clean through in the 40th, capitalizing on Jerome Boateng's defensive mistake, but fluffed a chip into the goalkeeper's arms rather than going for a truer strike.

Bayern played the prettier football, as expected, but United goalkeeper David de Gea barely had a shot to save before or after Schweinsteiger's sweetly struck effort from Mario Mandzukic's nod-down.

"Tonight's performance was more than you'd hope for," Moyes said. "Hopefully tonight shows we will go there and go toe to toe with them.

"Our best football has been in this competition and we will need to show our best football next week."

The night's other quarterfinal first leg also finished 1-1, with Barcelona coming from a goal down to draw at home to Atletico Madrid.

With Bayern having become Europe's new powerhouse over the past two years and United without its main striker in Robin van Persie, many predicted the home-and-away series would be a blow-out. In the end, Bayern was somewhat fortunate to be leaving Manchester with its record of scoring in every match this season intact.

United's ambition was limited -- it had to be, given it hardly saw the ball -- but the team's desire and work rate couldn't be faulted. Moyes fielded a patched-up defence with Patrice Evra suspended and Rafael da Silva a late withdrawal but he got his tactics largely spot on, although United has probably never been dominated in possession at Old Trafford as much as it was in the first half.

It was Bayern's attack vs. United's defence, and United's defence will feel it won the battle.

"It is not easy when the opponent sets up so deep and closes down space," Munich winger Arjen Robben said. "After they took the lead, we should be happy to take a 1-1 home."

There were times when the home fans fell deathly silent, perhaps mesmerized, as Bayern's bubbly midfield splayed the ball around in long periods of possession. But Moyes' side kept its shape well, with Vidic delivering his best performance of an otherwise shaky season.

He popped up at the other end to score United's goal, too, the Serbian given the freedom of the penalty box to flick a header into the bottom corner from Rooney's left-wing corner.

The lead didn't last long, though, as Rafinha sped by Robben on the overlap and crossed deep for substitute Mario Mandzukic, who headed the ball down for Schweinsteiger to sweep a half-volley into the top corner.

The midfielder had already been booked for a foul on Michael Carrick when he brought down Rooney with seconds left of normal time. He protested, wagging his finger at Rooney and claiming the striker dived, but Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had already brandished the yellow card.

"I think coming into the tie most people had Bayern had the favourites," Moyes said, "and rightly so -- they are the European champions. But this club is used to big European nights and tonight they showed it."

Bastian Schweinsteiger Wayne Rooney (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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