Bruised Manchester City come together to defeat Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in their home soil

April 14, 2022

This fixture had every detail tailored into it like a rich tapestry of the best of football and enthralled us for more than 90 minutes. It came as it had been billed with all the action and drama both on and off the pitch. With Savic pulling Jack Grealish’s hair on being called the C-word and Ederson finally getting to do his job properly after almost a one-sided clash in the first leg.

When the outcome of a fray results in the defender John Stones collecting the player of the match award, who had missed the first leg of this enthralling Champions League Quarter-Final clash you have to realize that it was more than a game. When Pep Guardiola was asked by a reporter couple of weeks back that everyone accuses him to be an over-thinker when it comes to the final stages of the Champions League clash, he sarcastically retorted supporting that statement saying he will play with 12 players against Atletico and over-think every single aspect of his tactics before going into the match. Well, he is a man of his word as weeks after his statement he went to Madrid in the frenzied atmosphere of the Wanda Metropolitano and delivered his moves as had been promised by him. Now the question arises where was this 12th man?

John Stones

In football, most of us concur that the supporters are the 12th man of the team but in the case of this fraught and suffocating fixture of the Champions League, it was Pep Guardiola’s mind games being executed through Phil Foden which acted as the 12th man and the hill in which Simeone’s men had to lay disappointedly after those added minutes of the match which extended to 13 minutes and saw the referee showing 7 yellow cards to players from both the parties. When Ilkay Gundogan had been named in the first eleven alongside Phil Foden in the false-nine position everyone wondered whether it was the best decision to play Foden there instead of in wider positions. But Pep’s genius took everyone by surprise as the 21-year-old English international emerged as the bravest and undisputed warrior of this brawl that took place in Madrid last night.

City had taken control of the game for much of the first half except for Atletico’s counter-attacking breakaways for brief spells which were eventually dealt off by the City defense line. But the narrative altered after the interval as the home support fired up the stadium and lifted the spirits with their shrill and loud cheers that deafened the Atletico clan to take the centre stage and push back and properly suffocate City. Their numerous flickers put Ederson to work much more than in the first half. Antoine Griezmann was just a tad wide from the edge of the area and Reinildo’s cross was a bit far for the highly enigmatic Joao Felix to reach.

Cancelo Vs Griezmann

Simeone got City where he wanted as Pep’s men struggled to get up the pitch. The startling and petrifying moments came for the visitors when Atletico substitute Rodrigo De Paul’s shot had curled wide, Angel Correa demanded a penalty for the challenge made by the combining force of Joao Cancelo and Rodri, and, around the 87th minute Matheus Cunha shot was blocked off by John Stones. Diego Simeone reinstated Luis Suarez to be the savior from their stifling plight yet Angel Correa was the one who came closest to an equalizer at the dying embers of the game but Ederson came in with an exquisite save and City breathed through it.

The legend always conforms to that whenever Atleti takes the pitch all sorts of dark arts start happening around it. Notwithstanding the legends, Pep Guardiola applied his anti-dark arts thesis behind it and it is a proof from the Atletico captain Koke’s words- “The match takes you to that madness when you see that you have chances and they drop to the ground and waste time. Many times we are criticized for this situation, but today it was them. Let’s see what people think of this”. The substitution of Fernandinho at the 79th minute was specifically made to supervise this ‘anti-dark arts’ thesis by Pep as City floundered around and stayed down for quite some time.

Koke fighting it out for possession

Foden was the leader of this ‘anti-dark arts’ thesis and the symbol of their resistance. The resilience of the whole City squad had been tested for much of the night but Phil Foden’s determination was on another level. He was bloodied and probably dazed by Felipe’s 12th-minute aerial duel as he was whipped out with Felipe’s upper body thrust but he bandaged and came back onto the pitch to fight till the end.

Phil Foden in all of his glory

Guardiola’s wish had been carried out by his players as they seeked out to keep the possession as the first half wore about in a breezy fashion but the surge from the home side had been evident since then. City had come close to an opener at the 30th minute from a corner that had been headed in by John Stones but they missed it. Riyad Mahrez released the ball for Kyle Walker, who crossed low as Foden laid the ball out for Gundogan whose close-range shot hit the post and his header on the rebound was blocked by Felipe.

Gundogan’s chance on goal

The first leg looked impressive for City with De Bruyne’s solitary goal and Atletico looking bleak and shunned to their half with 5-5-0, the second leg came out to be much better for the Atletico supporters except for the final result. As City marched on to the next stage of the UEFA Champions League the Atletico Madrid supporters sang and cheered for their team for 10 minutes after the referee’s final whistle and these are just the kind of sights fans like us love to savor.

Team News:

Atletico Madrid (3-5-2): Oblak, Llorente, Savic, Felipe, Mandava, Renan Lodi, Koke, Kondogbia, Lemar, Joao Felix, Griezmann.

Subs: Lecomte, De Paul, Suarez, Correa, Wass, Matheus Cunha, Carrasco, Hermoso, Vrsaljko, Serrano.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Foden, Bernardo Silva.

Subs: Dias, Ake, Sterling, Grealish, Zinchenko, Steffen, Fernandinho, Carson, Delap, Edozie, McAtee, Lavia.

Referee: Daniel Siebert