United able to hold off attacking Madrid

Posted by Juan Martin Figueira, ESPN Stats & Information

In the most anticipated matchup of the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid and Manchester United squared off in a highly entertaining first leg. Despite numerous chances for both sides (30 total chances for both teams), neither team was able to take advantage in the score.

Jose Mourinho’s side did concede a goal at home, which could play an important role in the return leg that will take place in Old Trafford. United’s valuable goal came from a Danny Welbeck header assisted by a Wayne Rooney corner kick in the first half. It was Welbeck’s first goal and Rooney’s third assist of the competition. Similarly, the home team’s goal to tie the game came through a Cristiano Ronaldo header assisted by an Angel Di María cross. It was Ronaldo’s seventh goal of the competition and Di María’s fourth assist. Both players lead Madrid in each category. It was also Ronaldo’s first header goal in UCL in the past three seasons. It was Ronaldo's first goal against his former team and marked only the fourth time in 20 matches that Real Madrid did not win a Champions League match in which Ronaldo scored.

Both teams created enough chances to take a first-leg lead. However, poor execution and great saves by both goalkeepers (especially David De Gea) prevented either team from ensuring a victory. Real Madrid had a more attacking presence with 445 touches in the attacking half compared to United’s 158. Nonetheless, this did not stop Man United from creating chances and stepping into the home team’s attacking penalty area. Throughout the game, Real Madrid had 15 touches in the attacking penalty box compared to 11 from the away team. However, 12 of the 13 shots United took were all inside the box. In comparison, the home team had a total of 28 shots but less than half (13) were from inside the box. The number of total shots by the home team should not be a surprise since Madrid led this category in the group stage with a total of 127 shots. They were led by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 37, the highest number for any player in this year’s competition.

What was particularly interesting for both teams was the passing completion rate. Throughout the past three years of UCL, Man United averaged 79.9 percent of passes completed in the games that it failed to win, compared to 82.4 percent in victories. On the contrary, in the same time span, Real Madrid averaged 75.8 percent of passes completed in games the team did not win and 84.3 percent in victories. Evidently, Madrid’s passing varies much more when comparing a team win to a loss or a tie. On Wednesday, however, Real Madrid averaged 81.8 percent (completed 453 passes) while United averaged 70.5 percent (256), its lowest mark in UCL this season. Despite being out-passed, United were able to hold on to a valuable result.

With Wednesday’s result, ESPN’s Soccer Power Index still projects Real Madrid through to the next round with a 55.2 percent chance to advance, compared to 44.8 percent for Manchester United. The draw definitely hurt Real Madrid’s chances, which stood at 73.2 percent before the game.

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