Manchester City will take a 1-0 lead in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-finals after posting a narrow victory over Atletico Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
Kevin De Bruyne scored the game’s only goal, but most of the credit goes to substitute Phil Foden, who had the decisive impact by creating that game-winning goal moments after coming on.
In a game of tactical chess at the highest level (anyone but the purist of purists would say boring), clear chances in the first half were few and far between. Neither team fired a single shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes and the best chance for both came when Ilkay Gundogan failed to make contact with a taunting cross from the right flank.
The hosts, who are so used to running through opponents, lacked the energy and incisiveness to really cause problems for Diego Simeone’s well-coached defence.
City had a soft penalty appeal that was rejected in the closing stages of the first half when De Bruyne came down under minimal pressure between two Atletico defenders.
Due to its tactical form, Atlético’s greatest threat remained in the counterattack. Joao Felix was a persistent threat, while Gundogan did enough to strip Antoine Griezmann in a breakaway.
It was nearly an hour before Jan Oblak put himself to the test, ducking to deflect a De Bruyne free-kick that deftly sailed over Atlético’s defensive wall. Not long after, Aymeric Laporte should have done better with a free header from a corner, directing his effort over the crossbar.
Pep Guardiola’s changes midway through the second half had the desired impact. Just over a minute after coming off the bench, Foden had gone through Atlético like none of his teammates had been able to, sliding a ball for De Bruyne to finish off past Oblak.
Foden’s quick feet cutting in from the right gave City a chance to extend the lead. But when the ball reached De Bruyne on the edge of the box, Stefan Savic stepped in the way.
Ederson (GK) – 6/10 – Largely a bystander. He picked up a rare late booking as he raced out of his goal to face Cunha.
Joao Cancelo (RB) – 6/10 – Impressive energy as always.
John Stones (CB) – 6/10 – He saw the ball a lot and used it quite well.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – 6/10 – He probably should have scored with a header a few minutes before City took the lead.
Nathan Ake (LB) – 6/10 – More functional than spectacular.
Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – 7/10 – Involved in most of what City did and finally made the breakthrough with a serene finish.
Rodrigo (CM) – 7/10 – He patrolled the middle of the field as expected. He constantly regained possession.
Ilkay Gundogan (CM) – 6/10 – He was the closest to opening the scoring in the first half, but failed to make contact. He made a crucial defensive intervention shortly after halftime.
Riyadh Mahrez (RW) – 6/10 – A few centers to the area were not rewarded.
Bernardo Silva (ST) – 5/10 – He seemed lost as the ‘false nine’. He fell back into a deeper role later.
Raheem Sterling (LW) – 5/10 – Clean in possession, not enough penetration.
Gabriel Jesus (RW) – 5/10 – Suspended for the second leg.
Jack Grealish (LW) – 5/10 – He received a lot of physical punishment.
Phil Foden (CM) – 8/10 – Instant impact with immediate assistance. He gave City a boost and extra energy that they didn’t have before.
Jan Oblak (GK) – 6/10 – He made his first save almost an hour later. He had little chance when De Bruyne fired past him.
Sime Vrsaljko (RB) – 6/10 – A bit of a spendthrift on the ball, but he handled Sterling and then Grealish pretty well.
Stefan Savic (CB) – 7/10 – He made an important block that denied his former club a second goal.
Felipe (CB) – 7/10 – He repulsed the attacks of the City and frequently cleared the danger.
Reinildo Mandava (CB) – 7/10 – He survived penalty appeals in the second half, but was never really in danger of being penalized for it.
Renan Lodi (LB) – 5/10 – It’s hard to make anything happen offensively.
Marcos Llorente (CM) – 5/10 – He worked hard but struggled to get involved.
Geoffrey Kondogbia (CM) – 7/10 – Frustrated his opponents for much of the match. He covered vast amounts of ground and rarely turned the ball over.
Koke (CM) – 6/10 – Strong in the tackle but retired after an hour as Simeone looked to give his team a different lead.
Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 5/10 – Difficult night with so few touches. He didn’t have the pace to make the most of an early second-half breakaway.
Joao Felix (ST) – 6/10 – Extremely isolated with little service, but looked like a threat on rare counterattacks.
Angel Correa (RW) – 5/10 – Booked as an aggressor in a mini-outbreak.
Rodrigo de Paul (CM) – 10/4 – He gave away the ball a lot.
Matheus Cunha (ST) – 5/10 – No real impact.
Thomas Lemar (LW) – 4/10 – Fewer touches than minutes on the grass.
for more than Jamie Spencerfollow him on Twitter and Facebook!