Sergio Ramos gets harsh lesson as Danny Welbeck exposes Real Madrid's set-piece flaw

Spain defender caught out by Danny Welbeck as Real Madrid defence made to pay for communication failure against Manchester United

the Bernabeu Stadium

No-one will ever be able to say that Jose Mourinho did not compromise his style when he went to Real Madrid. In recent history the team have been defined as much by defensive frailty as by their attacking verve and the former Chelsea manager has embraced that, unable to stem the tide of goals scored from set-pieces.

The finger of blame for this season's goals conceded from corners and free-kicks had been pointed at goalkeeper Iker Casillas and his reluctance to come off his line. At the Bernabeu he was absent but still Real conceded Manchester United's all-important away goal from a corner. The weakness will encourage Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford.

Speaking about the United forward line in the build-up to the match, Real captain Sergio Ramos told me about the strengths of three of United's attacking players. He raved about Robin van Persie's ability to change a game with a moment's magic. He spoke about his ferocious shot, released so quickly and from both feet. Ramos moved on to Wayne Roooney and talked about the dilemma he creates for defenders roaming deep and wide, leaving the defensive player wondering how far he should go to follow him. And he praised Javier Hernandez' ability to score two or three goals in brief substitute's appearance. He never mentioned Danny Welbeck.

But Ramos found himself marking the England striker when Rooney's corner came in and Welbeck got the better of the Spain international to make it 1-0. The last player to score from a header against Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout phase was Yossi Benayoun for Liverpool four years ago. But this was standard set-piece defending from Real Madrid this season.

Casillas has been replaced by a taller keeper who is more confident in coming for balls hung in the air. Diego Lopez was on United's shopping list when he was playing for Villarreal in the Champions League and Ferguson was looking for a long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sar.

He was helpless as Real's Achilles heel was their undoing again. Ramos was accompanied by 19-year-old Raphaël Varane in central defence with Pepe left on the bench. An early loose back pass from the former Lens teenager underlined the communications problems at the back for Real – that are repeated at set-pieces.

Pepe and Ramos were involved in the most famous of Real Madrid's corner failings last season when Ramos had been told to pick up Carlos Puyol at corners during a match with Barcelona. The pair had swapped for one corner and Pepe had been beaten in the air by Puyol as Barça scored. The training ground inquest brought the infamous exchange between Mourinho and Ramos – "So you think you're the coach now" followed by "You never played the game so you wouldn't know."

After yesterday's slip it will be back to the drawing board at Valdebebas ahead of the second leg.

Mourinho's other concern before that second game will be the ongoing lethargy of his forwards. Karim Benzema is like Lopez, another player who interested United. Ferguson decided ultimately that he was over-priced and that allowed Real to sign a player president Florentino Perez hoped would be his new Brazilian Ronaldo.

When he needed to be at his best he showed all the lack of aggression that has hindered him this season. He has never been the archetypal Mourinho No 9 and it has shown itself most in the biggest games since the Portuguese manager took over. It was apparent once again. He was replaced just before the hour by Gonzalo Higuain and the Bernabeu roared its approval at the change.

Higuain's first contribution was float a harmless shot over David de Gea's bar. He too has been short of the standard desired by Mourinho hence the decision to start the Frenchman.

How Ronaldo might benefit playing off of a dominant centre-forward the club may end up finding out next season – they will look to bring in a new No 9 in the summer. Though Mourinho being around to reap the benefit is far less likely.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place