resulting free-kick was saved comfortably by Lopez. The next booking was for United's Patrice Evra, after he brought down Ariel Ibagaza.
Lopez had to make three more saves as the game approached half-time - one straightforward from Fletcher after Rooney chested down Nani's cross, and two athletic efforts to deny Ronaldo. The first of these was a stunning finger-tip save to push an equally excellent shot onto the crossbar; the final stop demonstrated good reactions as he saw Ronaldo's free-kick late but still managed to smuggle it wide. Sebastian Eguren saw yellow for the foul leading to the setpiece.
Villarreal were forced into a change at the break, bringing Bruno on for Marcos Senna. The substitute's first telling contribution, a left-wing cross aimed for Rossi, was decisively headed away by Evra.
Ronaldo resumed his duel with Diego Lopez when he drove in a menacing shot that bounced just before the keeper saved it. When Rooney went for the rebound and fell in the area, there were appeals from both sides – from Ronaldo for a penalty and from Villarreal’s defenders for a booking to punish what they saw as a dive. The referee made neither call but did produce a card for Ronaldo moments later, apparently for dissent after a separate incident. Fuentes joined Ronaldo in the book for a foul on Rooney; play was waved on to allow Fletcher a shot that he dragged wide.
With the game opening up around the hour mark, Anderson twice hit low shots straight at the keeper and Rooney chipped one wide – both players benefiting from Fletcher’s neat approach play. Another Rooney shot, on the turn following Carrick's penetrative pass, found a familiar fate - well saved by Lopez.
The Reds enjoyed some luck when Santi Cazorla bent a glorious cross