Manchester United edged closer to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid on Wednesday, a high-profile showdown watched by an estimated 200 million people worldwide.
England international striker Danny Welbeck gave Alex Ferguson’s side the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, before former Old Trafford star Cristiano Ronaldo leveled later in the first half.
In the night’s other round-of-16 tie, German champions Borussia Dortmund drew 2-2 at Shakhtar Donetsk in a game overshadowed by a horrifying plane crash at an airport that killed five fans.
“It’s very open still,” Ferguson said. “We have a big job on our hands, but it’s within our grasp. This is a difficult place to come, but the players have dug in and got a good result. We had great chances.”
In a match described by Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho as the clash the “whole world was waiting for,” it was the hosts who came close early on with United goalkeeper David de Gea, playing in the city of his birth, pushing a Fabio Coentrao drive onto the post.
However, it was United who snatched the lead after 20 minutes when Welbeck shrugged off the attentions of Sergio Ramos to head in a Wayne Rooney corner.
Real were level after half an hour with Ronaldo living up the huge pre-match hype by scoring against his former club.
Ronaldo outjumped Patrice Evra to send a powerful header off an Angel di Maria left-wing cross past De Gea.
The Portuguese star’s subdued celebrations reflected the warmth with which he still regards United, where he spent six seasons.
De Gea, thriving in the city where he made his name with Atletico Madrid, was on hand again early in the second period to deny Di Maria, before Japan’s Shinji Kagawa made way for veteran Ryan Giggs, making his 150th European appearance.
Robin van Persie then saw a shot saved by Diego Lopez, with the ball coming back off the crossbar, and moments later the Dutchman miscued a close-range effort which was cleared off the line by Xabi Alonso.
“Everything is very open for second leg,” Mourinho said. “For them, they played very tactically, they play very deep, especially in second half. They were waiting for a set-piece to score. Even going there for second leg we can score goals.”
Van Persie said that home advantage in the second leg next month does not mean that the tie is over.
“We have a slight advantage, but at this kind of level it doesn’t matter if it’s home or away,” he said.
In Donetsk, five fans of the hosts, who had flown in for the match, were killed when their Antonov AN-24 plane, arriving from Odessa, was forced into an emergency landing.
There was a minute’s silence before kickoff at the Donbass Arena.
Dortmund, the 1997 European champions, almost snatched an early lead when Mats Hummels headed against the crossbar from a corner, but it was Shakhtar who took a 30th-minute lead when a Darijo Srna free-kick evaded the Dortmund defense, before beating goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller.
The German champions were level four minutes before the interval when Robert Lewandowski found the target after being set up by Mario Goetze.
Shakhtar regained the lead after 68 minutes when substitute Douglas Costa scored with a left-foot drive, but Dortmund finished on top and Hummels leveled with three minutes left.
“It is important that we are going into the second leg level and a 0-0 would see us through,” Hummels said. “Certainly there were a few dangerous moments in defense, but against a such an attack-minded team you can never avoid this.”