Match Report

De Bruyne gives City narrow advantage over Atleti

De Bruyne gives City narrow advantage over Atleti
Champions League
Champions League
Tue 5 Apr
Kevin De Bruyne 

View highlights
City will take a narrow but fully deserved 1-0 lead to Madrid next week after a gruelling, hard-Fought first leg at the Etihad.

The game played out exactly as predicted, with the visitors defending resolutely and City attacking almost from start to finish.

But one moment of magic from Phil Foden finally unlocked the Atleti defence for Kevin De Bruyne to slot home the only goal of the game.

What happened?

The first 45 minutes were almost totally attack (City) versus defence (Atleti).

It made for a frustrating watch, but it was exactly what was expected from the La Liga champions whose reputation of disciplined defending and meticulous organisation is well-earned.

City were virtually camped in the Atleti final third throughout, and apart from a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals, failed to trouble keeper Jan Obiak, thanks in part to some poor crosses and off-target long range shots.

If anything, the Spaniards looked fairly comfortable, with Bernardo, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling all kept largely quiet by the red and white-striped wall in front of them.

This is what Atleti do, and they do it very well.

As expected, there was more urgency about City after the restart with Ilkay Gundogan curling a low shot just wide and Kevin De Bruyne seeing a free-kick saved by Obiak in the first 10 minutes.

With 67 played, Guardiola brought Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus on to try and find a breakthrough.

Within three minutes, City were ahead.

Foden picked up the ball 10 yards outside the Atleti box, threaded a ball into the path of De Bruyne who hit a low shot across Obiak and into the bottom left-hand corner sending the Etihad into raptures.

In a split second, the tie had a completely different complexion.

City went looking for a second in the time that remained, with one sublime move between Bernardo and Foden almost resulting in a wonder goal after both showed mesmeric close control.

Grealish played his part, too, drawing foul after foul that saw two Atleti players booked - and that won't have escaped his manager's attention.

The visitors tried to engage City in a series of squabbles and numerous rolling around on the floor but the referee was having none of it.

Next week, we will do it all again...

Pep reaction

"It was a difficult game against tough opponents - they played two banks of 5 for the first 25-30 minutes and it was so difficult to find spaces - but we were patient enough except for the first 10.

"The first 5-10 minutes of the second half we attacked not at the right rhythm and we didn’t play the way we play.

"But yeah, it was a good result today. We had one or two more chances to score a second with Kevin, but good result and we won the game."

Foden stardust changes the tie

Such are his levels of consistency, it is something of a surprise when Phil Foden doesn’t make the starting XI.

He waited patiently for his opportunity against Atleti and halfway through the second half, he got it.

His spark, energy and infectious attitude was a shot in the arm at exactly the right moment and it took him less than three minutes to set up our opening goal.

Foden offers something different and has that ability to unlock even the meanest of defences.

We are lucky to have such a talent.

Only half-time…

City take a narrow, but crucial lead to Madrid.

Atleti cannot sit back and defend for 90 minutes on their own soil or they will be out of the competition.

They will be organised and defensive minded, of course, but they will have to find at least one goal and the longer they trail on aggregate, the more adventurous they will have to become.

It could get fractious and intense with a raucous home support behind the home side.

But that could play straight into our hands – with any luck.

Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne

So reliable, week in, week out, our Etihad Player of the Month for March has now scored five goals in his last five games as we reach the most vital stage of the season.

His goal was superbly taken and, as always, he was at the centre of everything good City did against the Spaniards – and on his 50th Champions League appearance for the Club.

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