El Centrocampista

THE BIG FREEZE – Last gasp Moscow frustration for Mou and Madrid

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Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom struck a late equaliser for CSKA Moscow as Real Madrid had to settle for 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League tie in a freezing-cold Russia on Tuesday.

Madrid boss Jose Mourinho made four changes from the side at weekend, but sticking with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Opponents CSKA Moscow lined up in a similar fashion, looking to gain advantage in the first leg on their famous plastic pitch in freezing conditions.

And it was the home side that made the best start, using their playmaker Alan Dzagoev to dictate the play, but also trying to find speedy winger Ahmed Musa, who was finding space behind Cristiano Ronaldo. This did leave Fabio Coentrao exposed at times, and Musa troubled the Portuguese international a few times early on but without end product.

As much as Dzagoev was key for CSKA early on, Mesut Ozil was trying to get into the game but found Wernbloom and Aldonin tough to break down, being very physical with most of the Madrid team.

Madrid were dealt an early disappointment though, as French striker Karim Benzema went off with a groin injury in the first 20 minutes, forcing Mourinho to bring on Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain to lead the line, with Cristiano Ronaldo supporting from the left wing as is customary with the Madrid team.

And in a game that was devoid of true quality, it was symptomatic of the game that a mistake would lead to the first goal.

After some slapstick attempts at clearing the ball, Zoran Tosic couldn’t get anything on his header and Ronaldo slammed the ball through Chepchugov to give Madrid the lead and an away goal.

More chances came and went for Madrid, especially for the lively but wasteful Callejon couldn’t finish off some openings for Madrid, and the score was 0-1 at half time – without many scares for the Madrid defence.

The second half began in similar fashion, with Pepe and Ramos digging in and happy to deal with scrappy football, and breaking up play to release Madrid on their counter attacking style of football, which Ronaldo and Callejon thrived in.

CSKA threw on pacey winger Sekou Oliseh to try and penetrate a very stubborn Madrid defence, but he was extremely profligate with possession and broke up some promising CSKA breaks, so Madrid were able to sit on their lead and defend. They were pressed a little bit harder when CSKA brought on Keisuke Honda and beanpole striker Tomas Necid, but they still looked comfortable.

Honda tested Casillas with a set piece, but as we entered injury time it looked like Madrid were set to leave Moscow with the 1-0 win that they wanted, but deep into added time Madrid couldn’t clear a CSKA free kick and Wernbloom hammered his half volley past Casillas to send the CSKA fans into delirium and send Mourinho home disappointed.

Ultimately, a draw isn’t a bad result for Madrid; they’ll be disappointed to have conceded late but you have to fancy them to win back at the Bernabeu, especially with that away goal as well.

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