Man City takes lead over Atletico Madrid in UCL Quarter-final

When it appeared like Atletico Madrid was grinding out the most vintage of Diego Simeone 0-0 at Manchester City, the playmaker did something brilliant to give Kevin De Bruyne a goal and Pep Guardiola a 1-0 victory.

This Champions League quarter-final first leg defied expectations because the fantastic Phil Foden achieved something no one could stop.

The fact that it was his from the first touch, despite only being called on as a sub, made it all the more spectacular.

The fact that a 21-year-old English player is doing things like that in games like this will just add to the excitement about Foden’s future, but he already has some back catalog, and it also means City is looking very bright for the present.

Atletico Madrid’s plans have been completely disrupted by this 1-0 victory, and they will now have to come out and attack in the second leg at the Metropolitano next Wednesday.

It’s fortunate for them that there are no away goals this time, however, part of their play was influenced by that.

Even if Simeone’s animation on the sideline didn’t imply it, things looked to be going nicely.

Atletico was quite an at ease – at least until Foden was introduced.

Guardiola, a coach who is frequently accused of trying something new for the purpose of doing something different, began with a method he has previously tried. However, one issue was that its success may best be regarded as conditional. Guardiola encouraged his Bayern Munich players to continue crossing the ball against Atletico Madrid in the 2015-16 semi-final. Given how brilliant Simeone’s defenders are in the air, that may appear pointless, but the idea is that they are so obsessively concentrated on their duties that second balls are a possible source of weakness.

City was clearly attempting to do the same thing here early on, but with one key distinction. While Bayern had Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller to force second balls and eventually score twice, City had… no one. Every attacker seemed to be waiting on the edge of the box for those second balls, but there was no one to make them happen.

Depending on how this tie plays out, there will be debates about starting at No. 9.

For the first 20 minutes, it meant that Atletico were under siege but not under pressure. In the first half, City did not even have a shot on goal.

Atletico didn’t have an attack in the first 25 minutes, but they gradually began to come out once they got over the initial onslaught.

If there is a standard phase in this type of game, it hasn’t fully evolved into a standard attack versus defense.

The game was more of a tactical tightrope walker. City was undoubtedly eager to move forward, but Atletico was no longer content to stay back so long.

They were counter-attacking aggressively, and there were three situations in the first few minutes of the second half when they appeared to be rushing into a fully open City half.

There were, however, two concerns with this.

The first was that Atletico Madrid was breaking forcefully but slowly. They simply lacked the necessary speed. Antoine Griezmann wasn’t moving as quickly as he used to. The French star was immediately gone for the second of those breaks, in a run of play that appeared to be a carbon copy of the vital goal in 2016.

Griezmann would have scored in 2016. Griezmann did score in 2016. This one was just pushed wide, followed by a rushed pass that went nowhere. A minute later, Marcos Llorente had a similarly powerful break that ended with a weak shot easily collected by Ederson.

The second issue was that it provided a little more space as well as a psychological relaxation.

City had greater playing space.

They also have a higher level of quality to work with.

Foden had been introduced by this point and had effectively taken the game to Atletico. He also provided them with something they hadn’t dealt with previously.

Foden just utilized his feet to deadly effect in the 70th minute, dribbling at a pace that the Atletico defenders couldn’t keep up with. The playmaker sent the ball to De Bruyne, who finished with finesse.