Manchester City Survive Atletico Intimidation And Mass Brawl To Book Champions League Semi-Final
Manchester City’s 100th game in the Champions League brought with it the reward of a third semi-final in seven seasons but, by the end of this punishing, ill-tempered, frantic contest, you had to wonder at what price. It is not often you see City with their backs against the wall and embroiled in an ugly dogfight but it took every ounce of their energy and strength to see off a brutal, uncompromising Atletico Madrid who very much lived up to their reputation as the bad boys of top level European football.
When the dust has settled on this most volatile of games, Pep Guardiola will be left to reflect on the cost of losing Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to injuries and the cumulative impact of two such intense games in the space of four days. It was a wild finish to a wild game. Felipe was sent off for a second yellow card after cleaning out Phil Foden, whom he had left in a bloodied heap in the first half.
It started an enormous skirmish as emotions raged out of control yet that was not the portion of it as official Daniel Siebert battled to keep a cover on things. The yellow cards were given around like confetti, including to Diego Simeone, and at the last whistle Pep Guardiola was pelted with objects tossed from the Atletico fans.
City might be famous for their excellent football however it was sheer guts and the splendor of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, their middle half matching, that got them over the line here. Stones made a brilliant square late on and stood resistant notwithstanding Atletico.
Before the end, City were on their feet. They had lost De Bruyne and Walker to injury in the last part and were running on vacant, the effect of Sunday’s down against Liverpool generally clear. They face Jurgen Klopp’s side again in the FA Cup semi-last at Wembley on Saturday yet you need to consider the amount they will have left in their tanks after this.
This was not a night for weak willed. There was a hostile state of mind in the air, with Atletico fans brutally booing and whistling the Champions League song of devotion before start off over Uefa’s late choice – therefore upset by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on security grounds – to force an incomplete arena boycott over their “oppressive way of behaving” in the principal leg, and that poured out over into the game.
It took City some time to settle, in truth. Maybe they were a touch leggy after Sunday’s awe-inspiring standoff with Liverpool or perhaps Atletico darting out of the squares required some change after the Spanish bosses’ ultra protective way to deal with the principal leg. Diego Simeone’s side were more aggressive in the initial 20 minutes than they had been for the length of last week’s gathering in Manchester yet there was surely no change to their unending incitement.
However, atletico wouldn’t yield. They had designated Jack Grealish in Manchester and Foden sought a portion of that equivalent treatment here. Stefan Savic pushed him in one occurrence after the ball had gone, setting off a series of irate blame shifting between the pair, yet it was not just Atletico’s authorities who can wage a grimy stunts crusade. Antoine Griezmann got Joao Cancelo late; Marcos Llorente did likewise to Ilkay Gundogan.
Anything to upset City’s energy and, by the half hour mark, they had some, as well. The extraordinary snapshot of the half came when Riyad Mahrez brushed a lovely pass in behind Atletico’s safeguard for Kyle Walker to square across the six yard box. Phil Foden’s first touch on the far side was strangely weighty however he figured out how to jab the ball with his second to Gundogan who, 15 yards out, hit a post with a left foot shot.
Ilkay Gündoğan comes quite close to giving Manchester City the lead in Madrid! 😩
It’s mad inside the Atlético Madrid punishment area!#UCLpic.twitter.com/fKX01BlXEL-Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 13, 2022
De Bruyne was covered on the bounce back. A moment later, one more ball across the six yard box – this time from Foden – likewise went unanswered and it is in those minutes particularly where you can’t help thinking about what a perceived focus forward would bring to this side. Sergio Aguero would most likely have had two on the night by that stage.
City could unquestionably have finished with one of those possibilities yielding an objective. When Kyle Walker followed De Bruyne out of the game in the 73rd moment, City were holding tight and living perilously. It is uncommon to see them looking so worn out and have such trouble keeping ownership yet the effect of Sunday was plainly incurring significant damage and, the more drawn out the game stayed goalless and City couldn’t keep the ball, Atletico filled in certainty.
For all Atletico’s rawness and hostility, they truly do have two of Europe’s more cunning aggressors in Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann and their astute development, brilliant running and deft contacts introduced various cerebral pains. The pair collaborated to make Atletico’s most obvious opportunity to that point with Griezmann terminating only wide of a post. City’s midfield was getting skirted with disturbing recurrence and the strain that put on the guard was gigantic.
Guardiola tossed on Fernandinho for Bernardo to attempt to support things yet he, as well, before long end up giving pursue as Atletico indeed limited forward and had their adversaries wildly retreating.