Manchester United and Atletico Madrid moved into the second leg of their Round of 16 ties in the UEFA Champions League on leveled terms. The two sides had played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Madrid with Joao Felix and Anthony Elanga scoring for their clubs on either half to guarantee a share of the spoils.
It was all down to Manchester United and the magical Old Trafford to take the game to the Spanish side and come out victorious. Alas, Diego Simeone’s men stick to the game plan like glue and came out victorious when it mattered the most. They now join Real Madrid to give LaLiga some more representation in the quarterfinal stages of the competition.
Solid Defensive Gameplan From the Spaniards Worked Effectively
First Half: Manchester United Enjoys More of the Ball, Atletico Deadly on the Counter
Right from the get-go, it was evident that the home side was interested in taking the game to the Spaniards. Atletico, as they have always been, was extremely clinical in defense. They are the team with one of the lowest possession shares in their away games in LaLiga. These two games against Manchester United were very similar with the team in Red enjoying over 60% of the ball.
The game saw the Reds attack Jan Oblak’s goal relentlessly with the first chance of the game falling as early as three minutes. Alvaro Negredo lofted a teasing through-ball over the Atletico defense that found Elanga only inches away from scoring with his head. Ten minutes later, Elanga was again involved when Bruno Fernandes’s good work found him near the byline to send in a dangerous cross very near to the goal line. Alas, Elanga couldn’t apply the finishing touch yet again.
Atletico Madrid did well to survive the early shenanigans and kept building play straight down the middle, a signature Atletico trait under Diego Simeone. At the 16th minute mark, there was a sight of the goal for the midfielder, Rodrigo de Paul who decided to unleash a shot that spun, dipped, and troubled David de Gea who had to produce yet another world-class save to keep his side in the tie.
United seemed to have taken hold of the play once again only to lose it near the midfield circle. A combination play between Koke and Llorente found the latter in open space to cross the ball perfectly for Joao Felix to tap into the net. However, Llorente was offside in the buildup and the young Portuguese had his goal chalked off.
With the same set of players involved, Atleti fashioned another chance within five minutes. This time Felix rolled the ball to Antoinne Griezmann who could deliver a perfect ball first-time that found Renan Lodi in the box to head home and score the solitary goal in the game. Atletico was now ahead on an aggregate lead of 2-1 over the Red Devils. Bruno Fernandes had to take matters into his own hand as he created a chance out of nothing with a long shot from yards outside the box that needed serious attention from Jan Oblak.
Second Half: Jan Oblak Saves the Day for Atletico Madrid
The second half only featured waves and waves of Manchester United attacks and only more solid defending from the visitors. It was Elanga yet again within the first minute of the half whose shot-cum-cross went nearly across the face of the goal. After another long-distance shot from Rodrigo de Paul, Manchester United found themselves in a fast transition. The combination play between Elanga and Diego Dalot found the latter in a good position to cross.
The overhit cross reached Jadon Sancho at the far post who had the best chance to put United on level terms. However, he couldn’t get the composure on the ball to put away a good shot and he ended up skying his attempt. A series of Freekicks in the 72nd and 76th minute troubled the Atletico defense. Jan Oblak made the save of the match from the second freekick when Raphael Varane stood up to head the ball home from close range. It was perhaps as important as a goal on the other end for Atletico.
The final chance of the match would fall to the hosts who won a corner within injury time. David de Gea also stepped up for this one. But the delivery was comfortably claimed by Jan Oblak whose customary kick would bring an end to the game. The protagonist of the match, Jan Oblak rightly got to have his involvement in the final action of the game. They move into the quarterfinals and there are more problems ahead for Ralf Rangnik and his Manchester United side who are in tough competition in England, even for the Europa League spot.
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