Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal to give Manchester City a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the quarter-final of the Champions League on Tuesday.
After just under 70 minutes, City finally found their way through Atletico’s strong rear, aided by Phil Foden’s vision. Just 79 seconds after coming off the bench, Foden slid into a fine through ball and De Bruyne rushed on to fire a low shot from a tight corner.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to create chances,” said De Bruyne. “The first half was tight, but we didn’t give anything away and in the second half we had a few chances. It was good that we took one.”
In the other quarter-final of the evening, six-time European champions Liverpool beat Benfica 3-1.
⏰ RESULTS ⏰
Husband. City claim first leg victory; De Bruyne takes second half clincher
🔴 Konaté, Mané & Luis Díaz inspire Liverpool in Lisbon; Darwin Núñez scores Benfica consolation
🤔 Predictions for the second leg?#UCL
Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never held the trophy in their hands.
Atletico played their usual restrained game as promised by coach Diego Simeone.
The first half was played at a slow pace, with City having most of the ball in control, but despite the fact that all the outfield players were sometimes in the last third, they were unable to create any openings.
Ilkay Gundogan fired wide and Rodri got a long shot blocked before De Bruyne turned down a penalty appeal and also missed John Stones.
“It’s very difficult,” said De Bruyne. “They played almost five in the back and five in the midfield, it’s very difficult to find the spaces.”
Only in the second half did the hosts try to bring more speed into their game. That opened the game up a bit and Atletico almost capitalized on it with a few breaks from deep. Antoine Griezmann lost an opening with a bad pass and Marcos Llorente chipped tamely on goalkeeper Ederson of another.
However, City also started to threaten more when an attempt by Gundogan went wide and Laporte headed close.
“I made the run and Phil thought I was perfect.”
“They played five in the back and five in midfield, it’s very difficult to find the spaces!”
City appealed for another penalty for Reinildo’s push on Sterling, but it was not awarded. Sterling’s latest involvement proved that when manager Pep Guardiola snatched him in the game-changing move.
Foden, who came in alongside Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, brought De Bruyne in front of the goal.
Foden created another chance for De Bruyne shortly after a tricky run to the byline, but this time Atletico had enough players back to block.
“The way we played was good because we didn’t give anything away,” said De Bruyne. “You have to be calm and patient, try to find the balls and the spaces because they were compact.”
Liverpool win road win over Benfica
It just had to be Luis Diaz.
The Colombian winger was the last player Benfica supporters wanted to see racing through a through ball at the atmospheric Estadio da Luz and an emphatic finish to take a 3-1 victory for Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions’ quarter-finals League on Tuesday.
After all, Diaz played for Porto – Benfica’s great rival in Portugal – until he was signed by Liverpool in January. No wonder he was whistled by home fans – and even the target of objects thrown from the stands – as he drove off to celebrate after his crucial third goal in the 87th minute.
It was also a brilliantly taken goal, as Diaz ran on Naby Keita’s deflected pass that split Benfica’s defence, rounded the keeper and pushed his finish into the unguarded net from a tight corner.
“He’s been well received, hasn’t he?” Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson said with a laugh. “It was a good finish for him and a very important goal for us. It gives us a two-goal tie, which makes a difference.”
Benfica could have easily been further behind at halftime, but moved the game more to the six-time European champions in the second half and Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez took advantage of a Konate error to pull back a goal in the 49th.
There were still some tough moments for Liverpool – in one of which goalkeeper Alisson Becker was nearly expropriated on the edge of his area by Rafa Silva – before Diaz’s strike saw Jurgen Klopp’s team take a fifth consecutive win in all competitions.
The Reds have passed the final test in their bid to rack up an unprecedented number of trophies, with the semi-finals now in sight. They have already won the English League Cup, are in the FA Cup semi-finals and are one point behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League.
Klopp even took the option of knocking out star strikers Mane and Mohamed Salah in the 61st minute, perhaps with the league game against City on Sunday in mind.
City will also enter that game after a win in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal, 1-0 at Atletico Madrid.