Atletico Madrid 0-0 Manchester City
Manchester City booked their place in back-to-back UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history. A fiery goalless draw was enough to set up a tie with Real Madrid courtesy of their 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium last week.
A hostile Wanda Metropolitano awaited the Cityzens as they took their slender one-goal advantage to Madrid. The atmosphere was electric, with 60,000 Atletico supporters singing at the top of their voices enough to send chills around the stadium, but City were not intimidated. The Blues picked up where they left off at the Etihad and almost doubled their advantage when John Stones wriggled free from a corner, but his header was over the crossbar.
City kept their foot on the gas, gunning for another goal to wrap up the tie. Ilkay Gündogan was inches away from doing so, but his effort cannoned back off the left post and was scrambled away to safety. Atletico offered very little going forward. Despite needing a goal to keep them in the tie, they barely threatened Ederson. The scores were level at halftime.
Atletico emerged from the tunnels for the second half with renewed optimism. They had 45 minutes to snatch a goal and take the game to overtime, and they looked to do just that. Antoine Griezmann came very close to leveling the tie. His volley drifted wide, but Ederson’s reaction showed he was worried.
Simeone threw his first roll of the dice with a triple substitution 20 minutes from time. Rodrigo De Paul was one of those introduced, and he almost made a significant impact, but his effort curled wide of the post.
Atletico mustered a few shots on target across two legs of football. It was well out of Simeone’s playbook to weather the storm and look to snatch a goal late on in the game, and they did that or tried to as they closed out the tie with plenty of heart.
Both sides lost their heads at the latter stages of the game. It started with Felipe’s splendid tackle to knick the ball away from Phil Foden but left in a needless kick that riled up the Manchester City bench. He was already on a yellow card and did not have to, but he did. Maybe it was an act of frustration, but it culminated in Felipe receiving a second yellow card and being sent off.
The draw meant City’s poor record on Spanish soil would continue. They have won just three in their last 12 away games. The Cityzens would not care though it was their night, and they will face Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
Liverpool 3-3 SL Benfica
Liverpool progressed to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since they won the title in 2018/19. Roberto Firmino netted twice to help halt a late fightback from plucky Benfica.
As Chelsea showed before eventually succumbing to Real Madrid, a two-goal deficit in a Champions League knockout tie is not impossible to turn around, especially as the away goal rule is now a thing of the past.
Both sides went head to head in search of a crucial first goal. Benfica showed they wanted it more after ten minutes when Everton flashed a shot from long range, but it was wide of the left post.
It was always going to be difficult for Benfica to surmount Liverpool, especially at Anfield. They needed to be secure at the back, and everyone knows you cannot keep Juergen Klopp’s red machines out for long.
Liverpool took the lead after 21 minutes. Ibrahima Konate scored his first Liverpool goal in the first leg of this tie by rising highest to a corner and heading home. The same happened in the second leg as he thumped a header past Odysseas Vlachodimos again. Roberto Firmino had a chance to double Liverpool’s lead, but his headed effort was deflected over by an unaware Jan Vertonghen, who was just in the right place at the right time.
20-year-old Goncalo Ramos pulled one back for Benfica a minute later, surviving a VAR check for offside. Despite conceding, the hosts kept their heads up, and coasted into halftime with the scores level.
Shortly after the break, a series of defensive errors allowed Firmino to restore his side’s lead with a tap in from Diogo Jota’s cross. Firmino bagged his second of the night with a volley and took his UCL tally to five goals in six matches this campaign.
The tie was seemingly done and dusted, but Benfica would not lie down. Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Nunez scored a goal each. The latter bizarrely survived an offside VAR check to bring the scores level on the night. And with ten minutes to spare, the Eagles believed again.
However, the damage was done, and Liverpool ultimately sealed progression with relative ease.
Benfica could only dream but progressing at Anfield was far-fetched. The Reds would now face Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the last four, a repeat of their Europa League semi-final from 2015/16.
The Spanish side will be eyeing up another famous scalp after knocking out Bayern Munich and Juventus already in 2021/22.