MAN CITY 1, ATLETICO MADRID 0
Kevin De Bruyne marked his 50th Champions League appearance with the match-winning goal for Manchester City against Atletico Madrid.
The Belgium’s clinical strike 20 minutes from time gives City a one-goal advantage going into the return of their quarter-final tie.
The goal came from a rare moment of quality as City substitute Phil Foden provided the assist with his first touch in what was a battle of attrition with Atletico setting out their stall to frustrate.
It was not pretty to watch as the Spaniards had 11 men behind the ball as soon as they surrendered possession as their goal was to frustrate.
Those tactics worked in the previous round when Atletico won at Old Trafford to knock out City’s Mancunian rivals, but this was a different story.
Indeed, Atletico, who suffered only a third loss in their last nine visits to England, failed to register one goal attempt in the entire game, something which had never happened before in manager Diego Simeone’s career. And while City had 15, only two were on target.
But with a one-goal advantage for the second leg, the onus will be on Atletico to be more positive as Simeone’s side bids to overturn the deficit.Embed from Getty Images
And in the light of a feisty finish when tempers became frayed, City manager Pep Guardiola said: “It will be a good test of our maturity, and we will have to control our emotions.
“They have more experience than us and had the patience to defend for long period and not give you many openings.
“It was a difficult game against a tough opponent, and it was five in defence and five in midfield. It was difficult to find spaces, but we were patient.
“Unfortunately, we had one or two chances at the end to score more, but it was a good result.”
De Bruyne added: “The first half was tight in the second half we had a couple of chances, and it was good that we took one.
“I made the run and Phil found me perfectly, I needed to stay composed, and luckily I did. It’s very hard. They played with almost five at the back and with five in midfield. I recommend anyone that says anything [about us], that they try playing against that on the training ground.
“We have to stay composed and don’t try to get into their action. It is the way they play. One nil is one nil. I expect similar over there. If the game is tight, they will have to attack a little bit more.”
Simeone praised City, explaining: “It is a bad result as we lost 1-0 and we were looking to win.
“It is clear we played against an extraordinary opponent. The stats speak for themselves in the goal they score at home and play very dynamically.
“We played that way as we wanted to go through with the tools we had to face the weapons they have.
“We use the tools at our disposal with the object of going through. We are still in the tie.”
City made three changes to the side that won 2-0 at Burnley in the Premier League at the weekend.
Kyle Walker was suspended while Jack Grealish and Foden dropped to the bench as Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and John Stones all started.
Atletico made two changes to the side that began the 4-1 win over Alaves in La Liga on Saturday.
Captain Koke returned while Felipe also started as Thomas Lemar dropped to the bench and Jose Gimenez missed out.
It was a fascinating opening period n which Atletico gave new meaning to parking the bus as, out of possession, they packed 11 players behind the ball giving City next to no room to play through the channels.
Atletico were happy to sit back and soak up early pressure as City enjoyed three quarters possession in the opening 15 minutes without creating a clear-cut chance.
They eventually carved out a chance mid-half following a short corner as De Bruyne squared a pass to Ilkay Gundogan who blazed over from the edge of the box.
And late in the half, John Stones also blazed over from distance as they endured a frustrating opening period in which they have a couple of penalty shouts rejected, though they were more in hope or desperation depending on how you viewed them.
Atletico’s ploy was to counterattack and straight from the restart they had two in quick succession as Antoine Griezmann’s break came to nothing and Marcos Llorente was then flagged for a clear offside.
Gundogan then had an effort deflected narrowly wide as there was more action inside the opening two minutes than in the whole of the first half.
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak was forced into his first save 10 minutes into the half diving low to his left to keep out a free kick from Kevin De Bruyne and then kicking the loose ball away with his feet as he lay on the ground.
It was a more open second period as Aymeric Laporte also saw a header land on the roof of the net from a Mahrez corner.
Atletico made a triple change on the hour to provide fresh legs as they had been chasing the game.
That was soon followed by three from Guardiola as Raheem Sterling, Gundogan and Mahrez made was for Gabriel Jesus, Grealish and Foden who made their entrance.
They proved inspired changes as within 80 seconds Foden threaded the pass with his first touch to De Bruyne who raced through to slot a shot low past Oblak for his 13th goal of the season and fifth in the last five games.
Tempers became frayed and emotions ran high late on, sparked with Angel Correa was booked for kicking the ball at Grealish as he lay on the ground.
Jesus and Ederson were also booked for acts of petulance and at the end Simeone stormed down the tunnel without shaking hands with Guardiola which stokes the flames for next week’s return in the Spanish capital.