Real snatch deserved cup draw
Sir Alex Ferguson was pleased with the points after watching his
Manchester United side survive a second-half Southampton fightback
to go seven clear at the top of the Premier League.
Jay Rodriguez gave the Saints a shock third-minute lead after a
poor back-pass from Michael Carrick to slot home around the
advancing David de Gea.
Wayne Rooney notched a quick-fire first-half brace to put United
back in control, before the Saints spent almost the entire second
period camped in the home side’s half but could find no way
Ferguson admitted: “That (a win) is the only thing we can take
“In the second half Southampton played probably the best any
team has played here this season. I thought they were very, very
“For half an hour we were absolutely fantastic – it could have
been five. We hit the post twice, Robin (van Persie)’s missed a
chance, Danny Welbeck’s missed a chance, we were really
“But in the second half when the pitch started to dry out, we
found it very, very difficult and we’re just glad we won the
Both sides had plenty of chances during an enthralling first
half, but the opener did not arrive until five minutes into the
second period when Cesc Fabregas latched onto Lionel Messi’s
through ball to fire past Diego Lopez.
Madrid got the equaliser their performance merited nine minutes
from time when the game’s outstanding performer, Raphael Varane,
rose to head home Mesut Ozil’s cross.
The big news before the match was the decision of Madrid coach
Jose Mourinho to hand a debut to goalkeeper Lopez after he rejoined
the club from Sevilla last week as cover for the injured Iker
But it was Barca’s second-choice goalkeeper, Jose Manuel Pinto,
who was first into the action, clawing away Cristiano Ronaldo’s
dipping free-kick from under his crossbar.
Barca began to take control after that early scare and they
could have gone ahead on 13 minutes when a beautiful scoop pass
from Andres Iniesta set Jordi Alba free but the full-back skewed
his volley well off target.
Ronaldo was then inches away from connecting with a Karim
Benzema cross, before Xavi struck the crossbar with a
The Barcelona midfielder missed another chance to open the
scoring on 25 minutes after a terrible backpass from Ricardo
Carvalho allowed Fabregas to intercept. The former Arsenal man teed
up Xavi to take aim with the goal gaping only for the impressive
Varane to get back and clear off the line.
The hosts started to find more opportunities on the
counter-attack as the half wore on and Benzema came within inches
of scoring with a volley after being played in by Jose Maria
Dani Alves then made a heroic last-ditch tackle to prevent
Benzema, and the Frenchman was first to threaten after the break as
he cut inside and bent a shot just over, but it was Barcelona who
found the net moments later.
A poor clearance from Callejon was seized on by Messi, who laid
on the opening for Fabregas to apply a cool finish beyond
Varane produced another wonderful challenge to deny Fabregas a
second as he bore down on goal, and Madrid should have been level
four minutes later as Michael Essien whipped a bouncing cross to
the back post where Ronaldo headed just wide.
Gerard Pique thwarted Ronaldo as he tried to connect with Ozil’s
low cross before Barca had two great chances to add to the scoring
as Fabregas shot over from Alves’ cutback and Pedro’s chip drifted
Barca’s failure to kill the game off came back to bite them late
on when Ozil swung in a cross from the right and Varane powered a
header low into the bottom corner.
The visitors had one final chance to take a lead back to the Nou
Camp on February 27 but Lopez stood up well to turn away Alba’s