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Casillas has been replaced by a taller keeper who is more confident in coming for balls hung in the air.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
Independent Dating

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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific