Man City take on Atletico to prepare for Real Madrid clash
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Madrid (AFP) – Manchester City held off a late push from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday as a bad-tempered stalemate at the Wanda Metropolitano saw Pep Guardiola’s side safely through to the Champions League semi-finals .
Kevin De Bruyne’s strike in the first leg last week at the Etihad Stadium proved enough for City to claim a 1-0 aggregate win at Madrid, although the Belgian had to leave with an injury which, if serious , would be a hammer blow to their hopes of winning the treble.
Kyle Walker also hobbled in the second half.
City will now face Real Madrid, with Liverpool taking on Villarreal in the other semi-final to complete an all-Spanish-English line-up in the last four.
A tense fight boiled over in the dying minutes when Atletico’s Felipe was sent off for a savage jab at Phil Foden, City’s midfielder already with his head in a bandage from an earlier challenge from Felipe.
The swap sparked a mass brawl in the corner, which only dampened Atletico’s momentum as the hosts finally put an otherwise dominant City under pressure in the final 10 minutes.
Diego Simeone was widely criticized for Atletico’s negative tactics in the first leg and there was only a minor change here, with the plan still to keep the game close ahead of a final push.
Atletico, however, could not find the goal they needed and instead City progressed to the semi-finals for a second consecutive year, again aiming for their maiden League triumph. champions.
After a rousing pre-kick-off ceremony that saw the words ‘Pride, Passion, Feeling’ spelled out through the crowd, Atletico got off to an emotional start, harassing City high up the pitch and clicking on their heels in the middle ground.
Foden was slammed by Felipe, Stefan Savic bulldozed Ilkay Gundogan and Walker took a ball out of play, under stress from the Atletico press.
But City survived the early physical onslaught and established control, although Atletico looked like a threat on the break, only failing with their final assist.
Gundogan hits the post
City’s possession should have been revealed mid-half when a wonderful pass from Riyad Mahrez freed Walker, whose cross slipped past Atletico’s slippery defenders and found Foden at the far post.
He kicked Gundogan for what looked like a straightforward finish, but the ball rolled back off the post. In the scramble, Gundogan’s header rebound was blocked by Felipe.
Atletico, however, pounced again after the restart, with the crowd following them. Antoine Griezmann dived a volley just wide of the post, Ederson fired a nervous punt downfield and Marcos Llorente burst the ball past Joao Cancelo. Guardiola crumbled on the touchline, trying to bring his team back to life.
With 25 minutes left, De Bruyne was replaced by Raheem Sterling and shortly after Simeone decided it was time to attack, Angel Correa, Yannick Carrasco and Rodrigo de Paul all came on.
De Paul’s first touch was to shoot just past the post and City were now backing up, camped out in their own half, either accepting or unable to prevent Atletico’s pressure.
Simeone rolled the dice, Luis Suarez and Matheus Cunha threw for the final eight minutes.
In the 86th minute, Correa fell for Cunha but his arrival was blocked by John Stones’ left leg. From the corner, Ederson failed to clear and the goal was gaping but Savic couldn’t head.
A fiery contest erupted at the end when Foden was again taken down by Felipe, who swung his leg towards City’s midfield on the way down. A host of players, substitutes and staff rushed in and it was only minutes later that Felipe was sent off.
With nine minutes added, Gundogan should have sorted out the problem for City but Atleti survived. De Paul tested Ederson with a free kick. Llorente was down when the ball fell to him in the box. He had the last shot but Ederson parried.
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