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5 talking points from tonight's Champions League action

Was tonight perfectly set up for Moyes? How badly will Diego Costa’s injury affect Atletico Madrid?

Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze and Manchester United's Michael Carrick (right) battle for the ball
Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze and Manchester United's Michael Carrick (right) battle for the ball

1. Was tonight perfectly set up for Moyes?

SINCE DAVID MOYES took over, United have been no strangers to playing in games in which the opposition are favourites.

However, expectations have surely never been lower than tonight, with many critics predicting an easy win for Bayern — this game was regarded as a genuine mismatch, whereas United were at least expected to be in contention in recent fixtures against Man City and Liverpool.

Thus, while Moyes has never managed a team in the Champions League quarter-finals before, the situation will have been familiar to an extent — throughout his career with Everton and Preston, he became accustomed to upsetting the odds and plotting the downfall of sides that were, on paper, vastly superior to his men.

United have struggled with the burden of expectation under Moyes this season, as their abysmal home record illustrates, but tonight, with no one expecting them to compete, they were free of that burden and thus, looked far more assured than usual as they secured a deserved 1-1 draw.

2. Echoes of Barca-Chelsea abound

Pep Guardiola recently cited the 2012 Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea as the most heartbreaking failure of his Barca reign.

He explained that the defeat ultimately led to his decision to quit the club, saying:  “We were far better than our opponent, received in the second leg an unnecessary goal and suddenly were eliminated. It was a very hard defeat for me. I had the impression that I didn’t reach my team anymore. If you can’t motivate your players as a coach anymore, then you know that the time has come to go.”

Tonight’s match was not dissimilar to those famous Chelsea games. Bayern played a style that had much in common with Barcelona, dominating possession and playing a patient passing style as they attempted to carefully thread the ball through the United defence.

Yet, as with Chelsea on those aforementioned occasions, United showed plenty of heart inspired by a solid backbone in the form of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, both of whom were impressive in defence.

Moreover, while the visitors dominated, United always looked capable of hitting them on the counter-attack — Welbeck missed one very good chance and had a goal controversially ruled out before Vidic’s header set United up for an improbable win that didn’t quite materialise.

3. Iniesta’s genius saves Barca

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With 20 minutes remaining in their match tonight, Barcelona were contemplating the sizeable task of going away to Atletico trailing by a goal for the second leg.

Yet a moment of genius from Spanish international Anders Iniesta, playing an inch-perfect through ball to set up Neymar’s equaliser, ultimately helped them earn a more positive 1-1 draw.

It also shows the wealth of Barca’s riches that on a night in which Lionel Messi and Xavi were not at their best (by their high standards), another one of their endless supply of prodigious talents ultimately came up with a moment of incomparable genius.

Atletico will still fancy their chances going into the home second leg, but Iniesta and Neymar ensured that, for now at least, the momentum is with Barca.

4. Rooney has no case to answer for

Bastian Schweinsteiger seemed to suggest that Wayne Rooney got him sent off after his second yellow resulted in his premature departure from the field.

Yet replays showed that the English striker was clearly fouled and that he hardly exaggerated the infringement as the German international inferred.

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If anything, Schweinsteiger should have been lamenting his own poor decision-making, needlessly committing a rash challenge late in the game when he knew he was already on a booking.

The result is that Bayern are somewhat depleted for the second leg, with three key midfielders in Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez (suspended) and Thiago (injured) all missing out.

Granted, they have plenty of other players capable of causing damage, but they’re in a far from ideal position going into the game in Germany.

5. Could Diego Costa’s injury derail Atletico’s season?

There were strong rumours tonight that Diego Costa would not play in Atletico Madrid’s crucial Champions League tie with Barca tonight owing to a thigh injury he picked up in training.

While the striker started the game, fans’ worst fears were confirmed when he was taken off after half an hour (while Barca were also dealt a blow, with Gerard Pique leaving the field injured after 12 minutes).

Ironically, Costa’s departure proved a blessing in disguise in the short term at least, with Diego — the man who replaced him — scoring the goal that put his side ahead in the tie.

Nevertheless, Costa will undoubtedly be a huge loss if he is out long term — to such an extent that it could ruin Atletico’s chances of success both domestically and in the Champions League.

He has been referred to as ”Atletico’s Messi,” so integral is his influence on the side, with 32 goals in total this season, including five in his last five games before tonight.

As it happened: Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Champions League>

VIDEO: Schweinsteiger equalises after Vidic opens scoring for United>

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Paul Fennessy

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