Man City advances to Champions League semis as tempers flare in heated draw with Atletico
Manchester City held hosts Atletico Madrid to a 0-0 draw Wednesday to return to the Champions League semifinals and keep alive its hopes of winning Europe’s top club competition for the first time.
City advanced thanks to its 1-0 win in the first leg last week.
In the end, it was Pep Guardiola getting the best of Diego Simeone in the battle of styles between City’s offensive-minded tactics and Atletico’s more cautious approach.
Atletico tried to leave behind its more defensive-minded approach and created some danger, but it still managed only three attempts on target after having none in the first leg.
“In the second half, they were better than us and we were lucky that we didn’t concede,” said Guardiola, who became the first coach to reach nine Champions League semifinals. “Overall, though, we are in the semifinals and it’s deserved.”
Tempers flare late
The hosts played the final minutes a man down after defender Felipe was sent off for kicking an opponent. The benches had been cleared a few moments earlier as Atletico’s players appeared upset with City’s attempt to waste time.
Shortly before that, as Man City’s Phil Foden was rolling around, Atletico defender Stefan Savic charged over, tugging at his shirt and attempting to drag him up.
There wasn’t an additional red card after VAR reviewed the chaos as Savic was seen seemingly attempting to headbutt Raheem Sterling and pulling unused substitute Jack Grealish’s hair.
The match ended with more than 12 minutes of stoppage time and Atletico had a couple of goods chances to break the deadlock but couldn’t capitalize on them.
Runner-up last year, City will next face Real Madrid, which eliminated defending champion Chelsea on Tuesday at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
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Atletico is now winless in its last seven Champions League games at home, while City is unbeaten in its last 13 away games in all competitions, with 10 wins.
Atletico was able to have the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium at full capacity after the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday accepted the club’s appeal to overturn UEFA’s closure of a 5,000-seat section as punishment for a fan’s Nazi salute in the first leg in England.
The club was trying to reach the semifinals for the first time in five years.
Police intervenes as brawl continues in tunnel
Atletico’s rough approach didn’t end at the final whistle.
Atletico defender Sime Vrsaljko, who was never brought off the substitutes’ bench, tried to make his impact in the tunnel in incidents captured in broadcast footage.
Still, Vrsaljko tried to launch himself at the City players. And as they approached the dressing rooms, police intervened in an attempt to restore calm.
The scenes will surely be investigated by UEFA. City manager Pep Guardiola didn’t want to stoke the tensions.
“Everyone saw the action but I have nothing to say,” Guardiola said when asked if he had liquid thrown on him.
Liverpool through to semis
Liverpool didn’t need its best players to secure progress to the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp opted to rest stars like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and saw his backups play out a wild 3-3 draw with visiting Benfica in the second leg of the quarter-finals to wrap up a 6-4 aggregate win.
Villarreal awaits Liverpool in the last four.
Ibrahima Konate, one of the scorers in Liverpool’s 3-1 win in the first leg, netted another header for Klopp’s team for the first goal and Roberto Firmino added two more in the second half at Anfield.
Even conceding two late goals couldn’t take the smile of Klopp’s face.
“The day we qualify for the semifinals of the Champions League and I’m not happy, please come here and knock me out,” said the Liverpool manager.
“It was pretty comfortable,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said, “but we’re disappointed with the goals we conceded.”
Liverpool stayed on course to win the competition for a seventh time, and for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies this season. That Klopp was able to rotate so heavily after building a commanding lead in Lisbon last week should enable Liverpool to field a full-strength team against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday.