Manchester United have held the mighty Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw in the opening leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Barcelona had to settle for the same scoreline against Atletico Madrid.
Coach Pep Guardiola's side entered the match Tuesday evening at Old Trafford as overwhelming favorites. Despite their 3-3 Bundesliga draw at home to Hoffenheim (against a relatively weak Bayern side) over the weekend, Bayern had the manpower, momentum and mettle to dominate Tuesday's encounter in Manchester.
But it was United who had everything to play for. Manager David Moyes has had a dismal campaign since taking over for Alex Ferguson at the end of last season. Poor league and cup form mean the Champions League is the only trophy United has a chance - albeit slim - of winning this season.
From the outset, it was Bayern who seemed to control nearly every aspect of the match. The Bavarians had 78 percent of possession in the first half and hardly allowed the hosts out of their own half.
The few times United did get forward, however, it was eventful.
Welbeck unable to capitalize
Danny Welbeck had two excellent chances to put his side ahead in the first half, one of which he'll be wishing he had back. His impressive spinning volley four minutes in was whistled off for a high kick. The decision denied United what would have been a spectacular and wholly unexpected early goal.
The real opportunity came in the 40th minute, however. Wayne Rooney began the counterattack when he played Welbeck through from half field. The striker won the ball from Jerome Boateng and charged towards goal, but his tame attempt at a chip was slapped away by Manuel Neuer, and the two sides entered the break scoreless.
For Bayern, a near-monopoly on possession wasn't enough. It took Robben's effort on the half-hour mark for the Bavarians to test United's David De Gea. Seeing space in front of him, the Dutch winger cut in from the right and curled a shot towards goal, but the Spanish goalkeeper was able to dive to his right and force a corner. The attempt would be Bayern's only meaningful shot on goal in the half.
United join the fight
The second 45 minutes saw far more excitement unfold. United began with a confidence that was simply lacking in the first half. Moyes replaced an injured Ryan Giggs with ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa. The change gave United confidence in their pace going forward, and helped to make a tiny dent in Bayern's possession dominance.
Just 13 minutes after the restart, it was the hosts who took a surprising lead. Vidic was left unmarked on a corner, and the defender easily nodded the ball into the far corner. The unexpected goal ignited the Old Trafford crowd and injected a new energy into the United side.
The lead wasn't to last, however. In the 67th minute, second-half introduction Mario Mandzukic headed down Rafinha's cross into the path of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German midfielder sent a left-footed finish high into the United net and suddenly it was 1-1.
The two sides continued to trade opportunities as the half wore on, but neither was able to truly test the opposing keeper.
Held to a draw
With just under ten minutes to go, Moyes brought on Javier Hernandez to try and grab a late winner. But Schweinsteiger's second yellow and ensuing red card in the 90th minute for a late tackle on Rooney all-but guaranteed the draw.
"It was a good game. It was as expected. They obviously played really defensive and only allowed counters," Robben told broadcaster Sky after the match "At the end a 1-1 is a good result and we'll take that home."
While the pundits may have expected a blowout victory for Bayern, Robben was clear that United's defensive style contributed to the low score line.
"They stood deep and allowed us the ball. We tried to find a bit of luck," he said. "It isn't easy when an opponent plays so deep. They make it hard. We tried. Like I said, when they play that way you can be satisfied with a 1-1."
"The result is alright. We really tried all our options," said Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos. "At the end we can be satisfied with a 1-1 draw, but we would have obviously preferred a win."
Draw for Barcelona
In the evening's other Champions League encounter, Barcelona were held the same 1-1 score line at home against La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid.
After a scoreless first half, former Wolfsburg midfielder Diego put the visitors in front with a thunderous, swerving shot from distance in the 56th minute. Atletico's lead was canceled out just 15 minutes later, however, when Neymar's finish from inside the box made it 1-1.
The Champions League resumes again Wednesday when Borussia Dortmund travel to the Spanish capital to take on Real Madrid. Paris St. Germain host London club Chelsea in the evening's second match.