Cristiano Ronaldo scored early on in what looked like a comfortable match in freezing Moscow against CSKA, but Jose Mourinho signaled to his players, as the match was slipping away from the hosts, that 1-0 is enough for him, eventually costing Real Madrid the win as Pontus Wernbloom scored a 93rd minute equalizer on his debut with the club, which probably won’t be enough for the second leg.
Real were the better team for about 85 minutes. CSKA did open with a lot of enthusiasm, but Real, with a fantastic Xabi Alonso, Pepe and Semi Khedira , played patiently and soon took over the match. The frozen pitch didn’t matter much as every time a CSKA player tried to pull off something creative, at least two players in white were already on him to force the turnover.
It was no surprise the Real got the first goal, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 33rd Champions League goal and 36th in all competitions this season. He and Higuain created more chances later on, but a good day from Sergei Chepchugov kept CSKA within scoring distance.
Slutsky kept throwing in subs like Sekou Oliseh, Keisuke Honda and Tomas Necid and did change the game in his favor. Real went back to counter attacking and eventually, Mourinho showed everyone that a 1-0 was enough for him when he put in Raul Albiol for Mesut Ozil. Real just waited for the final whistle, and got stung by Pontus Wernbloom, who was making his debut after arriving from Alkmaar.
Looking at it with a cool head, Real shouldn’t be too disappointed. An away match at a very tough venue does make the 1-1 draw not all that bad, especially with the second leg at the Bernabeu, no matter how you look it, looking like it’ll be a win, rather easy even, for Madrid. Being aggressive from the start, their offensive talent should be too much for the so-so Russian defense.
Still, the final minutes are somewhat of a warning signal for Real Madrid and Mourinho. That the Champions League isn’t the La Liga, and despite the comfortable and successful road that has taken Real to this point of the season, it’s only going to get tougher.