Champions League: Atletico Madrid, Manchester City secure crucial victories

Atletico Madrid players [Photo: The Naked Convos]
Atletico Madrid players [Photo: The Naked Convos]

Atletico Madrid took a huge advantage in their heavyweight UEFA Champions League last-16 tie with Juventus on Wednesday.

They earned a 2-0 home win, thanks to late goals from Uruguayan defenders Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin in a tense, incident-packed game.

Gimenez slid to the floor in a crowded penalty box to bundle the ball into the net from close range in the 78th minute.

That was after former Juve forward Alvaro Morata had had a goal ruled out following a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review.

Atletico Madrid also had a penalty kick awarded then taken away by the technology earlier in the game.

But they only grew in determination and captain Godin grabbed a vital second goal in the 83rd minute to take into the return leg in Turin.

The veteran defender appeared at the near-post to knock a loose ball into the net.

This was after Atletico Madrid had wreaked havoc again from a set-piece, the shot deflecting off familiar foe Cristiano Ronaldo on its way in.

“It’s a magnificent result. We scored twice and they did not. But we still have the second leg and we know the 90 minutes in Turin will be just as difficult as they were tonight,” Godin said.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable and luckily we were able to overcome adversity after the decisions of the referee and VAR.”

Both sides are two European juggernauts who have reached four of the last five UEFA Champions League finals between them without lifting the trophy.

But their meeting was as bruising and tight a match as could be expected between sides renowned for their intimidating defences.

Juve’s signing of Ronaldo was a clear attempt to boost their firepower and hopes of winning the competition.

But the man who scored 22 times against Atletico Madrid as a Real Madrid player was kept relatively quiet on his return to the Spanish capital.

The Portuguese tested goalkeeper Jan Oblak early on with a scorching free-kick and as his side chased an away goal in stoppage time he headed over the bar.

It prompted gleeful whistles from the home supporters at a raucous Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, which will host the competition’s final in June.

“Small incidents decide games like this. We knew they were very dangerous from set-pieces and we should have been more focused,” said Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini.

“We are not happy at all. It’s a big result to come back from, but we’ll give everything in Turin.”

Atletico Madrid had made a timid start and their best moment before the interval was when a bursting run from Diego
Costa drew a foul by the area.

It was initially given as a penalty, then reduced to a free kick.

Roared on by their famously fervent supporters and animated coach Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid grew in confidence in the second half.

They should have taken the lead when a pass from deep by Antoine Griezmann released Costa, who rampaged towards the area but dragged his shot well wide of goal.

France forward Griezmann came much closer to scoring moments later, but his attempted chip was turned on to the crossbar by Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

That save did not halt Atletico’s momentum and they were well worthy of the two goals although they must do without Costa and Thomas Partey.

Both players have been suspended from the second leg on March 12, along with Juve’s Alex Sandro.

In the second match of the night, Manchester City staged a dramatic comeback with late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling to secure for them a 3-2 win at Schalke 04 on Wednesday.

The win was in a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match and it has put the English side who finished the game with 10 men in the driving seat.

Substitute Sane scored against his former club with a sensational free kick in the 86th minute of the first leg tie.

Sterling grabbed a 90th-minute winner after Nabil Bentaleb converted two spot kicks in the 38th and 45th minutes in Schalke 04’s own comeback.

Sergio Aguero had given Manchester City the lead in the 18th minute.

The English champions were then left with 10 men in the 68th minute when Nicolas Otamendi was sent off following a second booking.

Manchester City have now conceded at least two goals in six of their seven games in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages under Pep Guardiola.

They will also be without yellow-carded Fernandinho for the return leg in Manchester on March 12.

“We know that we will get our goalscoring chances and most of the times we use them,,” goalscorer Leroy Sane, a product of Schalke 04’s youth academies, told reporters.

“I was a bit lucky that the ball went in from that position. We did not find it easy to settle in the game and we struggled to find spaces.”

Argentine Aguero, who netted two hat-tricks in his previous three English Premier League (EPL) games, scored with a simple tap-in after a pass from goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann was intercepted.

Manchester City completely overran the Germans at the start but instead of scoring again, they inexplicably fell back, allowing Schalke 04 to come forward.

The hosts were rewarded when a handball earned Otamendi a booking and the hosts a spot-kick that Algeria international Bentaleb converted after the use of the video assistant referee (VAR).

The Royal Blues then went ahead seven minutes later after earning another penalty kick when Fernandinho clumsily brought down Schalke 04’s Salif Sane.

Bentaleb again stepped up and scored his second goal of the evening in spite of goalkeeper Ederson getting his hands on the ball.

With coach Guardiola growing increasingly frustrated, the visitors tried for an early goal after the break but this time came up against an organised Schalke 04 backline.

To make matters worse for Manchester City, Otamendi was sent off with a second booking in the 68th minute.

This took any pace left out of Manchester City’s game, before Leroy Sane’s missile saved the day for the English side.

Sterling then slipped into the box late in the game to grab victory with a dramatic winner.

“It is extremely bitter and it hurts,” said Schalke 04 midfielder Daniel Caligiuri.

“With an extra player, we should have controlled the ball and made it 3-1. We should have solved this situation better.”

(Reuters/NAN)

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