Madrid, Feb 14 (IANS) It was billed as the game of the season and the Champions League last-16 first leg tie between Real Madrid and Manchester United lived up to the billing as the two clubs ended the night in a 1-1 stalemate.
Ninety minutes of thrilling football ended in a draw Wednesday, thanks to goals from Danny Welbeck and Cristiano Ronaldo, reports Xinhua.
It was a game both sides could have won and although Real Madrid did more attacking, Manchester United also had golden chances to have taken a better result home for the return leg.
Both coaches sprang surprises in their starting 11 with Rafael Varene preferred ahead of Pepe, who is just coming back after an ankle injury, in the Madrid defence, while Xabi Alonso was included in Jose Mourinho's side despite a pelvic injury.
Man United manager Alex Ferguson included striker Danny Welbeck in his starting 11 along with Wayne Rooney, who dropped to a wider role, and Robin Van Persie.
Shinji Kagawa was also included in the United side with Tom Cleverley the player to miss out in midfield, while Jonny Evans was in for Nemanja Vidic, who was perhaps the most surprising omission from the English side.
As expected the game started like an express train with Fabio Coentrao seeing David De Gea getting enough of a touch to divert his sixth minute shot onto the United post, while at the other end, Kagawa and Van Persie.
Real Madrid were doing most of the attacking, but United opened the scoring as Welbeck easily beat Ramos to nod home a corner after 20 minutes.
The home side reacted strongly, forcing a series of corners before Ronaldo saw a shot flash past the post after a rebound from a free kick.
He made no mistake just before the half hour with a magnificent header to level the scores following a cross from the left, although he didn't celebrate out of respect for his former club.
The game was being played at a frantic pace with both Welbeck and Rooney going close for Manchester United, while at the other end Mesut Ozil forced a good save from David De Gea, who was the saviour for the English club, after a long ball from Alonso.
De Maria twice went close for Madrid in the opening minutes of the second half, but saw one shot saved by De Gea and another go wide.
Meanwhile Rafael Varene was a tad fortunate that the referee waved play on after his challenge on Welbeck, when he was the last defender.
Coentrao was denied by a flying save by De Gea as Real Madrid replaced Benzema with Higuain to give more aggression to their attack.
The closing minutes saw United sit deep to defend the result to take back to Old Trafford in three weeks and it was no surprise to see Madrid's play become slightly more static, although there was still time for Ronaldo to almost scramble the ball home at one end and Van Persie to end the game with a shot parried round the post.