MAN UTD 0, ATLETICO MADRID 1
(Atletico Madrid won 2-1 on aggregate)
Manchester United went down with a whimper as Atletico Madrid claimed a quarter-final place in the Champions League following their victory at Old Trafford.
It was a disappointing night for the Reds who failed to ask enough questions of the Spanish champions who were too savvy for their opponents.
After the euphoria of Saturday’s win against Tottenham, when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, this was a sobering reminder that one swallow does not make a summer.
Ronaldo, the hat-trick hero on Saturday was anonymous and did not have a goal attempt, something that last happened in a Champions League match 10 years ago.
A goal from Brazilian Renan Lodi separated the sides as they went through 2-1 on aggregate.
And if defeat was not bad enough, there were disgraceful scenes at the end as Atletico coach Diego Simeone was pelted by missiles as he sprinted down the touchline to the tunnel as soon as the final whistle sounded.
The match officials were also targeted as the teams left the field with the actions of a minority of fans likely to result in disciplinary action against the club.Embed from Getty Images
United manager Ralph Rangnick said: “I think we played a very good first half – exactly the way we wanted to play with a high energy level, but we couldn’t convert that into one or two goals.
“We had a few good moments where we should have scored but we didn’t. Conceding that counter-attacking goal just before half-time didn’t make life any easier.
“That was a foul for sure on Anthony Elanga but the referee and the linesman didn’t see it that way. For me that was the only real moment, and the offside goal, that they scored with. Apart from that, we defended well and we were compact in their transition moments. There is nothing I can blame the team for in the first half.”
“We know they are good at defending leads. We had one or two moments in the second half and there was a brilliant save from the goalkeeper. We were fully aware that against this team you need to score the first goal yourself.
“It was hard in the second half and always interrupted. There was always somebody lying on the floor. I would also say some curious refereeing decisions.
“I wouldn’t say they were decisive but at least he fell too often for those time-wasting antics and four minutes at the end added on was a joke for me.”
David De Gea added: “We are really disappointed with the result. It’s difficult to put into words how we feel at the moment. We did not enough in both games to win it. It’s a very disappointing day for us.
“They are a team with a lot of experience. They know how to play those Champions League games. They scored a goal then are a tough team, so it was hard for us to create chances. We are out of one of the most important competitions, so we are very sad.”
And on not winning a trophy for five years, De Gea said: “Of course it’s not good enough. It’s hard for the club, for us and the fans. It’s really hard. This is where we are at the moment. It’s a difficult situation. We have to keep fighting. I feel very sad. But we were not good enough.”
Ronaldo started for the second game running, following his treble in the 3-2 victory over Tottenham.
Rangnick made three changes from the side that started against Tottenham, bringing in Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and Anthonay Elanga. Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic dropped out.: BBC Sport
Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix were among the big names to start for Atletico who welcomed back captain Koke. Former Liverpool pair Luis Suarez and Alberto Moreno were on the bench.
United began on the front foot and carved out a first clear-cut chance in the 12th minute.
Fernandes dribbled to the by-line and squared the ball to Anthony Elanga whose shot from three yards struck goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the face as he knew little about the vital save.
Atletico’s response was a terrific 30-yard drive from Rodrigo De Paul which forced a fantastic save from the Spanish side’s former goalkeeper David De Gea.
Oblak was forced into action again to keep out a 25-yard drive from, Diogo Dalot, though it was a routine stop.
Felix had the ball in the net in the 34th minute but the effort was ruled out as Marcos Llorente had strayed marginally offside in the build-up, a warning for the Reds.
And so it proved as Atletico stole ahead in the 41st minute with United still complaining Elanga had been fouled at the opposite end of the pitch.
A swift break saw Felix back heel the ball to Griezmann whose cross from the right was met at the far post by Lodi whose downward header from six yards beat De Gea for his first-ever goal in the Champions League.
United came close to an equaliser in stoppage time when a 25-yard swerving drive from Fernandes brought the best out of Oblak.
The Reds almost made the perfect start to the second period when Fernandes’ back heel released Elanga who cut in from the right before firing just wide of the far post.
Atletico continued to cause problems targeting Harry Maguire with their high press and, after United too easily lost possession, De Paul forced a diving save from De Gea.
United had a great chance when Jadon Sancho volleyed narrowly over from Dalot’s cross, a rare threatening moment.
The need for new impetus and ideas was evident as Rangnick made a triple change mid-half as Elanga, McTominay and Fernandes were replaced by Rashford, Matic and Pogba.
There was a fourth change with 14 minutes left as Fred made way for Edinson Cavani.
Oblak pulled off another important save to keep out Raphael Varane’s header from Alex Telles’ free kick with Ronaldo’s follow-up effort also saved but the Portuguese was offside.
United went for broke with six minutes left sacrificing skipper and centre back Maguire for midfielder Jan Mata.
Despite the attacking riches on the field at the end, United failed to trouble Oblak further as the 2,500 visiting fans were jubilant as home supporters trooped away dejected.