Atlético de Madrid will be in the hype for the quarterfinals of the Champions League thanks to his win by the minimum at Manchester United’s home. The lonely man goal by Renan Lodiunleashed in this phase of the season as a rojiblanco scorer, it was enough to subdue Ralf Rangnick’s team that lacks football arguments beyond the individualities of its stars. Very poor is the image with which the English club says goodbye to the competition, which not even a combative Cristiano Ronaldo could revive. Diego Pablo Simeone’s team needed little to take the victory after 1-1 at Wanda Metropolitano: defensive order and two sparks in attack. The colchoneros proved to be a better team, and much more worked, during the 180 minutes of the tie. The nerves that Reinildo Mandava had displayed in the first leg disappeared to reveal a full-back turned solid centre-back, improving Felipe’s performance by a margin. Not even in the final minutes did Atleti suffer excessively, which vibrated with his fans at the Theater of Dreams.
Oblak saved, Lodi sentenced
Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in high spirits for the match after the three goals he endorsed against Tottenham last weekend. As if the Portuguese striker had signed a truce with Rangnick, a coach with whom he neither has a connection nor expects one, he came out onto the pitch with extreme motivation. On the first ball he touched, Cristiano made a series of five touches without the ball coming off his boot. Hyperactive, the Portuguese collaborated in the work of creating the play, avoiding the trap of the three red-and-white central defenders, but moving too far away from the finishing areas.
The gaps left by Manchester United’s number seven were taken advantage of by the very young Elanga. At 19 years old, the winger has earned the position with Rangnick, he has already thrashed at the Wanda Metropolitano and was about to start the second leg with a goal. The Englishman finished a collective play after 10 minutes of the game to finish off from close range. Jan Oblak made an appearance and avoided both with his face.
Atlético came out onto the pitch with a clear attitude: goals should not be conceded early. Simeone was aware that the match would be long and gave the order to wait behind, perhaps aware of the little preparation of the game that characterizes this Manchester United. In his first stretch Rodrigo tried his luck Paul with a very strong shot from 45 meters. The ball touched a rival, causing an effect that made apart from the local fans fear the worst. David de Gea answered with a meritorious save, another one in his brilliant season, to send the play to a corner.
In the game no one seemed to take control of the game, despite the fact that the ball was delivered by Atleti to United in a shameless manner. Jadon Sancho began to grow, the greatest English talent of the moment who is disappointing in his first season as a red devil, but United could not cause any real danger. Yes, the rojiblanco team (dressed entirely in blue) did it with a vertiginous counterattack and Marcos Llorente entered the area as a lane player. The midfielder gave up an easy goal for Joao Félix, but he had received the ball in the wrong position.
And the rojiblancos chants resonated at Old Trafford
As it has been happening during the course, United’s defense began to leak. Raphael Varane, once aspiring to be the best central defender in the world, is unrecognizable in his first experience outside the Santiago Bernabéu. Inconsistent, erratic in the exit of the ball and without forcefulness in defense. Same diagnosis for Maguire. Atlético came up with a deep pass to Joao Félix, who held the ball with quality until entering the danger zone: center pumped to the long post and there, absolutely alone, Lodi appeared to finish off a header in the small area. The Brazilian has been uncovered as an emergency scorer for Diego Pablo Simeone. At Old Trafford he resounded “Atléti, Atleti, Atleti”. The first 45 minutes closed with a dry shot from Bruno Fernandes that did not surprise the Slovenian giant.
The break suited Manchester United well. Elanga was close to the goal, perhaps the best news of the entire season for the local fans. Minutes later Jadon Sancho would try with a powerful shot, looking for the thread to the long post, but without causing danger to Oblak. He did not worry too much the control of the match, without the ball, of the rojiblanco team. Special mention for Antoine Griezmann: The Frenchman did not have a great encounter with the ball at his feet, but he offered physical display, constant coverage and moments of lucidity when the game passed through his boots. He attempted the Champions League goal with a lob that went high into De Gea’s goal.
Rangnick moved the bench, aware that the match was slipping away from his team. Pogba, Matic and Rashford left, with Edison Cavani – Simeone’s eternal wish – waiting for his moment. The fire reached Old Trafford with a fall by Marcos Llorente in the middle of United’s attack. Both the local players and the public understood that the Spaniard was exaggerating, but the images showed that Llorente’s ankle was bent in a game throw. It was the spark that the Theater of Dreams needed to come up for a few last minutes in search of the heroic… And it almost found it immediately if it weren’t for a save from Oblak against a header from Varane. It was time to clench their teeth and suffer a United team that anchored Cavani in the red and white area… without success.
Simeone defended himself by giving entry to Kondogbia for Koke, visibly touched. The veteran Juan Mata came on for Maguire, in an all for all by Rangnick, he had no choice with six minutes and added time ahead. De Gea came up to look for the epic. Neither suffered Atleti, much superior in the British night, in the last play.