The Atletico Madrid and the Man Utd tied 1-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League, with goals from the Portuguese Joao Félix for the locals and the English Anthony Elanga for the visiting team, so the tie will be decided at Old Trafford.
In a breath, on the only occasion of Manchester United, in his only shot between the three sticks, back in the 79th minute, in an incomprehensible counterattackAtlético de Madrid threw away everything they had done during the game, over their opponent from start to finish, ahead almost from the start, with the amazing goal with which Joao Félix flew and the red-and-white team resurfaced to feel that everything is possible, also at Old Trafford, where they will arrive with a draw, but with all the conviction in the world (1-1).
Elanga's goal, fatally defended by Reinildo Mandava in the final pass that enabled him for the cross shot with which he beat Jan Oblak, he lowered his match, in which Diego Simeone's group did everything to win, they even defended as in other times for 79 minutes, until he conceded a counterattack; an option to his opponent, who took advantage of it amid the incredulous gestures of the 'rojiblanco' team, frustrated with the draw.
In a review of Atlético's recent matches, there was no tangible or convincing argument for optimism. Everything -or almost everything- responded to emotional questions. to assumptions. To the presumption of the team's reaction. To a belief that everything is possible, whatever your moment may be and whatever your opponent may be. That is also the work of Simeone. He has earned it. There are innumerable examples throughout the ten-year journey so far, even though now was the lowest point, that everything was up for discussion.
Because faith, insistence or the reinvention of the current rojiblanco block also make up the essence of a team that was transformed under the orders of the Argentine coach ten years ago. A group that, suddenly, did not recognize itself since last December, who fell to a precipice from which he returned this Wednesday, beyond the scoreboard, in the best escape, in the competition that causes him the most sleeplessness and longing, to shout that he is still alive. That you can never give up on Atlético and, much less, if Simeone directs it.
Nor to Joao Félix, whose rebellion and nonconformity is an ambition for Atlético. Nor to Lodi, reborn for the left lane due to Yannick Carrasco's suspension. The Brazilian remembered the one who came two and a half years ago, lost until now in the irregularity. Nor to Héctor Herrera, underused by Simeone, but whose hierarchy is unquestionable. The Mexican vindicated himself with an imposing game in the middle. Almost every time he appeared in the right place. Just like Kondogbia, who led Pogba to a dead end.
Simeone's Atlético game plan devoured Manchester United for an hoursince Joao Félix flew to hunt a Lodi center with a tremendous header from the left, which in its camber was sensed impossible. Nothing is for Joao when he proposes it, who stretched himself more than predictable to reach the delivery in an undeniable way, score 1-0 and bring the game, the scoreboard and the stands to the boil in just seven minutes.
Joao Félix was signed for that. To be decisive. To decide at any time in any match; in this case one of the greats, one of those encounters that leave no one indifferent, that propose a challenge that has neither middle ground nor nuances, much less excuses. So defining. Two and a half years after his incorporation, Atlético, Simeone and the fans were still waiting for a performance on a par with his formidable football.
your shot he hit the post first and then went into the goal. Neither one nor the other attended De Gea, with no room for reaction, immobile before a fantastic shot that launched the match along the route that Atlético had proposed, armed around the goal, compact on each line, winner of each rebound, directed and strengthened in the middle by Héctor Herrera and Kondogbia, attentive to each brand, each coverage, each intersection, in each sector, imposing and superior to their peers. To Paul Pogba, to Fred, to Bruno Fernandes...
There was no news about Cristiano or Rashford or Jadon Sancho. Of none of the three men most offensive to him. He faked Bruno Fernandes with an appearance, a shot that seemed more than it was for Oblak and was lost midway through the first half; a nonsense from United, although a good part of the responsibility fell on Atlético, who, this Wednesday, did look like himself in many sections, even in defense, until he conceded the equalizer.
He did not go into the break with more loot, because the crossbar repelled the carom caused by Vrsaljko and Lindelof finished off against his own goal on the edge of intermission. The center went to Lodi, whose great game was stopped by an injury in the 70th minute, when the game had already turned towards a more uncertain panorama for Atlético, because he no longer felt so much in control of the game or the midfield, more demanded by the advance guard, meter by meter, of United, which, in any case, he had not yet seen Oblak. She didn't even see him in the whole meeting.
Surprised then, a quarter of an hour from the end, the change of Joao Felixa hieroglyph for United throughout the match, an unlimited resource for Atlético, which was not enough to win the game, because a counterattack appeared, because Elanga scored 1-1 and because the crossbar got in the way of Atlético's victoryin a shot by Griezmann, already on his way to Old Trafford, to play a tie that today should have been half his.
1 - Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savic, Giménez, Reinildo, Lodi (Lemar, m. 74); Llorente, Herrera, Kondogbia; Correa, Joao Félix (Griezmann, d. 74).
1-Man United: De Gea; Lindelof (Wan-Bissaka, m. 65), Varane, Maguire, Shaw (Álex Telles, m. 65); Fred, Pogba (Matic, d. 65); Rashford (Elanga, m. 74), Bruno Fernandes, Sancho (Lingard, m. 80); Cristiano Ronaldo.
Goals: 1-0, m. 7: Joao Felix. 1-1, m. 80: Elanga.
Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (Romania). He admonished the locals Herrera (m. 45), Reinildo (nm. 64), Llorente (m. 76) and Giménez (m. 77), and the visitors Shaw (m. 50), Lindelof (m. 60), Rashford (d. 65) and Fred (d. 73).
Incidents: First leg of the Champions League round of 16 played at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in front of some 67,000 spectators. Luis Enrique, Spanish coach, attended the meeting in the box.