Manchester City are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League, having held Atletico Madrid to a goalless draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Having come into the game with a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at the Etihad, Atleti knew they couldn’t simply sit deep and look to hurt their opponents on the counter as they did against Manchester United at Old Trafford last month. They came flying out of the blocks, pressing hard and threatening to score when Joao Felix got in behind on the right and was inches away from finding Thomas Lemar as he charged into the area.
With a hostile home crowd whistling City’s every touch, Atleti produced a series of fiesty challenges which culminated with Felipe leaving Phil Foden crumpled on the turf after a brutal aerial duel. He was lucky to avoid a booking – his stray elbow left Foden bleeding from the head and bandaged up for the rest of the game – with City’s anger only compounded when he was cautioned not long afterwards for smashing into the back of Kevin De Bruyne.
Despite their opponents’ naked aggression, City gradually began to assert themselves. De Bruyne saw a wicked shot blocked by Reinildo, before some sharp interplay between Riyad Mahrez, Kyle Walker and Foden ended with the latter laying off to Ilkay Gundogan who, striking the ball low and hard, hit the base of the post.
Geoffrey Kondogbia gave Ederson a scare with a deflected effort as the first half wore on but, come half time, City were in control. Atleti started the second half in much the same way they had the first, however, with Antoine Griezmann nipping in behind on the right and unleashing a shot from a tight angle only for Aymeric Laporte to get his foot in the way.
Funnelling the ball down the flanks through Renan Lodi and Marcos Llorente, the hosts made two decent chances for Joao Felix in quick succession but, ultimately, he couldn’t convert either. Having failed to score he looked to turn provider, teeing up Griezmann on the edge of the area for a shot which whistled just wide of the upright.
Rodrigo De Paul, on as a substitute, twice fired wide as the game drew to a close, while Atleti howled for a penalty when Joao Cancelo appeared to catch Angel Correa across the shins. Diego Simeone’s side fought tooth and nail for a goal, Matheus Cunha forcing John Stones into a game-saving block before Ederson denied Correa right at the death, but City held firm – helped by a belated red card for Felipe – and will now face Real Madrid for a place in the final.
Descent into chaos. While it was a highly watchable game as far as goalless draws go, the last 10 minutes were more eventful than the rest of the match put together. The challenge on Foden which saw Felipe sent off was the catalyst for a 22-man brawl, with Stefan Savic steaming in head first and somehow avoiding a red card despite seemingly forgetting that this was football, not WWE.
He and Nathan Ake were cautioned in the aftermath, while Mahrez, Foden and Cancelo all went into the book before the game was over. In a fitting end to the match, Simeone was shown a yellow card for losing it after Savic went down with cramp. As the two sides made their way up the tunnel, there was a furious spat between Savic and Jack Grealish before the police intervened to separate the two sides. While broadcasters are obliged to use words like “shameful”, “disgraceful” and “unsavoury scenes”, it was hard not to laugh really.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ederson (Manchester City). Having only been called into action sporadically for much of the game, Ederson kept his concentration to make an absolutely vital save from Correa with mere seconds on the clock. It spared City the nightmare of extra time and another 30 minutes of bruising physical punishment which, at this crucial stage of the season, could be priceless.
While Stones’ block to deny Cunha was equally important, Ederson’s save came after the distraction of the brawl and the ludicrous antics in the aftermath. It’s testament to his composure as a goalkeeper that he was able to stay switched on amid the general anarchy.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak 6, Llorente 7, Savic 5, Felipe 3, Reinildo 6, Lodi 7, Koke 6, Kondogbia 6, Lemar 5, Griezmann 6, Joao Felix 6
Subs: Carrasco 5, De Paul 6, Cunha 6, Correa 6, Suarez 6
Manchester City: Ederson 8, Walker 7, Stones 8, Laporte 7, Cancelo 6, De Bruyne 7, Rodri 6, Gundogan 7, Mahrez 6, Foden 7, Silva 5
Subs: Ake 6, Sterling 5, Fernandinho 6
4’ CLOSE! Joao Felix gets in behind on the right and scampers into space. He plays a low cross to Lemar as he comes rushing into the area, but his run is just slightly mistimed and City get it clear.
29’ HOW HAVE CITY NOT SCORED? Mahrez plays a fantastic ball to Walker, who tees up Foden. He lays off to Gundogan, who hits the post with a low drive. Several players almost score on the follow-up but, after a classic goalmouth scramble, Atleti somehow get it clear.
76’ ATLETI APPEAL FOR A PENALTY! Cancelo appears to catch Correa across the shins, but there’s nothing doing and VAR declines to intervene.
85’ GAME-SAVING BLOCK! Atleti throw everyone forward and Cunha smashes a shot at goal, but Stones makes an absolutely vital intervention.
88’ FULL-ON BRAWL! After a bad challenge from Felipe on Foden, Savic charges in and ends up starting a 22-man shoving match. He and Ake are booked in the aftermath but, really, he’s lucky to stay on.
89’ FELIPE IS OFF! The referee brings it back for the initial challenge and belatedly shows Felipe a second yellow.
90+11’ HUGE SAVE! Atleti lump it forward and Correa works an opening, forcing Ederson into a low save which spares City the grim slog of extra time.