De Bruyne makes the difference during masterclass defending Atlético

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 10:51 PM• Mart van Mourik • Last update: 23:18

Manchester City booked a narrow victory in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday evening. In the Etihad Stadium, the team of coach Josep Guardiola was 1-0 too strong for Atlético Madrid. It took until the seventieth minute before the Citizens managed to find a hole in the Madrid wall, which was eventually knocked down by Kevin De Bruyne from star Phil Foden. The return in Madrid is scheduled in eight days.

Just like in the Premier League win, Guardiola had cleared a starting spot for Nathan Ake, who stood next to Aymeric Laporte in the heart of the defense. Facing City was a very defensive Atlético, which withdrew from the first whistle around their own sixteen-meter area. The Madrilenians’ attacking duo was formed by Antoine Griezmann and João Félix, while Luis Suárez, despite being accurate twice in the LaLiga encounter with Deportivo Alavés (4-1), started from the bench.

City seemed to want to leave nothing to chance and immediately went for the attack. The first big chance was noted by De Bruyne. The attacking midfielder looked for the short corner with a low slide from the left side of the box, but Mario Hermoso was able to handle the attempted corner. Laporte headed just over from the corner from the left. City continued to surround the hostile penalty area almost incessantly afterwards. However, the home team’s urge to attack did not lead to finished chances, as Atlético continued to defend very concentrated.

The Madrilenians created hardly any opportunities themselves, both in the first act and after the break. Before the halftime signal, coach Diego Simeone’s team had not produced a single shot. Also telling was the fact that Laporte (58) and John Stones (56) sent more passes together than the entire Atlético Madrid team (99). In the second act little changed in the game picture: City kept looking for the goal; Atlético could do nothing but stop.

After some fine saves by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, City managed to break the spell in the seventieth minute. Substitute Phil Foden had a splitting through ball on De Bruyne, who remained icy calm and finished from close range. In the remainder of the match, City came close several times to a new goal, which, however, was not found.