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UEFA Champions League quarter-final; Manchester City edge past dogged Atletico Madrid as Liverpool trumps SL Benfica

Kevin De Bruyne helps Manchester City secure all three points against toothless Atletico Madrid, and Luis Diaz comes back to haunt Benfica, helping Liverpool to an emphatic away win

Phil Foden made an instant impact off the bench as he provided the assist for Kevin De Bruyne
Phil Foden made an instant impact off the bench as he provided the assist for Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City 1-0 Atletico Madrid 

Phil Foden made an instant impact off the bench. He provided the assist for Kevin De Bruyne to help Manchester City edge out a dogged 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid had already knocked out the red side of Manchester and now had their sights firmly set on the blue side. Los Colchoneros have not reached the semifinal of the Champions League since the 2016/17 campaign. Manchester City also had a point to prove after falling in the final against Chelsea in the competition last season.

The opening half was very predictable. Diego Simeone set up his team to sit deep and set up to frustrate Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the ball but failed to penetrate the formidably organized Atletico Madrid defense. The visitors posed no attacking threat and failed to attempt a single shot in the first half of a Champions League game for the first time since data began back in 2003/04. Kevin De Bruyne had a penalty appeal swiftly turned down by the referee, and that was the closest the hosts came to opening the scoring. Felipe barged the Belgian off the ball, but Istvan Kovacs was not convinced. City looked like the more likely to score but the scores level at HT.

Antoine Griezmann almost got Atletico off to the perfect start after the break. He sailed past the City backline before Ilkay Gundogan heroically forced the Frenchman into an error. De Bruyne forced Jan Oblak into his first save of the night with a free-kick just shy of the hour mark. The Slovenia international got down well to palm his effort down before clearing away from danger. Aymeric Laporte spurned a good chance when he rose highest from a corner, but his header was over the bar. Phil Foden was electric after replacing Riyad Mahrez. The Englishman provided the magic moment for the hosts after slipping De Bruyne through on goal, who placed the ball into the bottom corner to make it 1-0. Foden had only been on the pitch for a minute.

De Bruyne had a chance to score his second on the night just ten minutes from time. His low effort was cleared off the line by Felipe, who had a stellar game for the reds. With time slipping away, Atletico showed no urgency to level the scores despite being a goal down. They remained content to sit deep and keep City from getting a second. It may have been in Diego Simeone’s master plan all along, but the Spaniard now has a lot of thinking to do. Atletico Madrid will welcome Manchester City to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for the second leg next week.

SL Benfica 1-3 Liverpool

Liverpool extended their UEFA Champions League 100% away win record after emerging 3-1 winners over Benfica. Luis Diaz returned to face his old foe and was a thorn in their side, scoring a crucial third goal late in the game.

Benfica failed to win any of their previous eight Champions League quarter-final ties. There could not have been a sterner task for the Portuguese side. They had to overcome a rampant Liverpool, who are on the hunt for a coveted quadruple. Juergen Klopp demonstrated Liverpool’s strength in depth by making six changes to his starting eleven. It didn’t always matter who started for Liverpool. The reds are a direct, intense, and possession-hungry team. Klopp may have made changes, but it did little to upset the team’s rhythm, and in the 17th minute, Ibrahima Konate gave the reds the lead.

One of Klopp’s rotations saw Ibrahima Konate partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of Liverpool’s defense. He repaid the gaffer’s faith by opening the scoring with his first goal for the club. The former Leipzig man rose highest to thump in Andrew Robertson’s corner. Liverpool have scored two or more goals in 14 of their 20 matches in 2022. Liverpool added a second goal to continue their record to put some daylight between them and the Eagles. The goal had Klopp’s famous gegenpressing blueprint written all over it. Benfica lost possession in midfield, and three passes later, Sadio Mane tapped into an empty net.

After the break, the hosts regrouped and started the half on the front foot. Konate went from hero to villain when he allowed Darwin Nunez to pull one back for the hosts. Liverpool’s control in the game slowly waned, and Benfica were gunning for a leveler. Klopp needed the experience of Jordan Henderson to control the tempo in the middle of the park. Luis Diaz has never been on the losing end when facing the Eagles, and the writing was on the wall for him to score against them. Naby Keita’s slide-rule pass had a slight deflection, but it wasn’t enough to take it away from Diaz. Odysseas Vlachodimos was slow to react, and he allowed the Colombian to go round him and roll in a vital third three minutes from full time.

The two-goal advantage gives Liverpool a much-needed boost going into their title-deciding tie at the Etihad. Meanwhile, Benfica’s dream UCL run could end unless they can somehow muster a comeback at Anfield. They have not reached the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League since the competition’s rebrand.


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