Just as we expected, the Atletico-Man City game was as firecracker of a game. Even though it finished 0-0, it was a thoroughly entertaining spectacle for neutrals, only marred by the ugly scenes right at the end.
Manchester City now advance to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League for the third time in their history. They will be hoping to lift the trophy for the first time at the Stade de France on May 28.
How did the game unfold and what does it mean for both teams going forward?
Atletico Madrid Need To Show Their Attacking Side More Often
Going into this game, we expected Atlético Madrid to take the game to Manchester City at some point. However, we were not prepared for how early the home side began to attack.
Atletico mostly kept it safe in the first half. As soon as the second half started however, the Atlético players swarmed forward and took the game to Man City. By doing that, they left themselves vulnerable to several City counterattacks, but they were clearly prepared for those.
At the end of the game, Atlético had recorded 14 shots in total to City’s 10 shots. Los Colchoneros also had 3 shots on target, 2 more than Manchester City. The home side were unlucky to have scored no goals during the game.
Their current defence-first approach in big games has served them well but going forward, they must move to a more expansive style and try to match other European giants blow-for-blow.
In João Félix, they have an absolute gem. Over these two legs, the young Portuguese forward has looked the most likely to make something happen for Atlético. It would be a shame if they were to lose a player of his undoubted quality because of the defensive football Diego Simeone prioritizes.
City Finally Embrace The Dark Arts
As strange as it was to see Atletico attack so freely in a game of this magnitude, Manchester City’s willingness to sit behind the ball and protect their slender lead was also surprising.
Pep Guardiola has caught flak from football analysts in the past for how often he seems to overthink and cost his side in games they really should be winning.
In this game, he refused to overcommit his players and even brought in outgoing captain, Fernandinho, to shore up the midfield late on.
Guardiola’s philosophy is that if your team has the ball, the other team cannot hurt you. Here, that tactic was reflected in the passing stats. City made 605 passes with an 87% completion rate, an improvement on Atlético’s 399 passes with a 75% completion rate. This enabled the Manchester side to take the sting out of the game when needed.
City goalkeeper, Ederson, also had a pivotal role to play. The Brazilian goaltender was Man of the Match with three crucial saves including the 120th minute stop on Angel Correa’s goal-bound effort. He also contributed to City’s ball dominance with his usual impeccable passing.
City rode their luck at times and were fortunate to have not conceded any goals by the time the full time whistle blew. However, they thoroughly merited the 0-0 draw and advanced to the semifinal to face Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid Players Losing Their Heads
In the 13th minute, Atlético centre back, Felipe leaped shoulder-first to contest a header with Phil Foden and left the City winger on the ground in a heap. Despite the protests from the City bench, the referee did not book Felipe and play was soon allowed to continue after Foden’s bleeding head had been bandaged.
Later in the first half, Felipe’s central defensive partner, Stefan Savic chased down a loose ball along with Foden. This time, the former City centre back shoulder-barged Foden even though the ball was already rolling out of play.
It was clear at this point that the Atlético players had been instructed to “rough up” the City youngster to provoke him into a reaction.
The provocation boiled over in the 90th minute when Felipe executed a wonderful tackle to dispossess Foden on the left wing and then kicked the City winger in the calf.
It was a snide and unnecessary tackle at a time when Atlético were in the ascendancy and had City pegged back. The referee duly produced a second yellow card and sent Felipe off after the dust had cleared, effectively easing the pressure on City and allowing them to regain the upper hand.
More relevant, however, was Savic’s reaction when Foden rolled back onto the pitch in an attempt to delay the game further. Enraged at the attempt to waste more time, the Montenegrin centre back dragged Foden back off and sparked the on-pitch brawl that later spilled to the tunnel.
That Savic was only booked once over 180 minutes illustrates Atlético’s commitment to the dark arts. The centre back should have been sent off for his on-pitch tangle with Jack Grealish that later spilled into the tunnel but somehow avoided a red card.
Overall, the game ended with 9 yellow cards and a red card – the 5th-highest in a UCL game, illustrating how the game descended into chaos. One thing is for sure, Atlético Madrid deserve the heavy fines that will be levied on them by UEFA.
Madrid Should Not Be Afraid of Manchester City
The semifinal fixtures are finally set. Liverpool will face Villarreal while Pep Guardiola takes Manchester City to battle familiar foe, Real Madrid for a place in the UCL final.
Both legs of the City- Atlético tie have made it abundantly clear that there is more reward in attacking City than there is in bunkering down in a low block. It’s left to see if Carlo Ancelotti learns the relevant lessons before Madrid face the reigning EPL champions.
Kevin de Bruyne, City’s best player, and Kyle Walker, the defence’s safety valve, both suffered injuries against Atlético. If the duo miss out on playing either/both of the semifinal matches, Madrid’s chances of reaching the final will be greatly enhanced.
One thing is for sure, the tie will not be as one-sided as it was two years ago when Man City won 2-1 twice to advance to the semifinals at Real Madrid’s expense.
UCL Now Puts Liverpool And Manchester City On An Exciting Collision Course
The UCL draw means Man City and Liverpool can now play out their rivalry in the UCL final this year.
Basically, this means if both teams beat their Spanish opponents, they can set up an almost-unprecedented one month period where either of the EPL giants can completely wreck the season of the other by winning the UCL, knocking the other out of the FA Cup and outlasting the other to win the English Premier League.
In 2002, Bayer Leverkusen lost out on three trophies in just eleven days. Two decades later, Manchester City and Liverpool each have the chance to claim a treble (a quadruple in Liverpool’s case) and ruin the other’s season.
Strap in, it’s going to be a wild ride!
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