Atletico Madrid won the Champions League match against Manchester United on Wednesday, but it didn’t win.
Atletico held Cristiano Ronaldo under control and received a brilliant performance from Joao Felix, his Portugal teammate. However, Diego Simeone’s team was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at the first leg.
Felix, once a potential successor to Ronaldo, was the most dangerous forward. He put the hosts ahead with a diving header just seven minutes in. However, substitute Anthony Elanga equalized the score in the 80th minute shortly after he came off the bench. This was one of few occasions that the Atletico defense failed to break down.
Elanga said that it was his first touch. He became United’s youngest ever scorer in the knockout stage, at the age of 19 years and 302 days. I’ve always dreamed of such moments, scoring in the Champions League against a top-team like Atletico Madrid.
Atletico controlled the match at Wanda Metropolitano for most of it and hit the crossbar twice, one by Antoine Griezmann in the 86th minute.
Simeone stated that “they took advantage of an error in what was a very important game for us.” “We did nearly everything right throughout the match. Although we didn’t win, I was happy with the way we played and it’s open for the next game.
The return leg in England will take place on March 15.
Tuesday’s other round of 16 match saw Benfica and Ajax draw 2-2 in Portugal.
Ralf Rangnick, United coach, said that “after the performance in half one it could only get worse.” It was unbelievable to me what we did in the first half. We didn’t have the aggression and conviction to play against the ball.”
Ronaldo, who was cross-town rival Real Madrid’s champion league player, ended Atletico’s title hopes in Champions League several times, was clearly frustrated throughout the match. He was isolated up front and was booed almost every time he touched a ball at the Metropolitano.
Felix, who was constantly dangerous with his strong runs and quick turns, was more dangerous than Atletico.
With a strong header from Renan Lodi’s cross, the forward of 21 years opened the scoring. Felix became the first Portuguese player to score in the Champions League against United since Ronaldo scored against Juventus in November 2018.
This was Felix’s seventh Champions League goal, his first since 2020.
United looked defeated with Ronaldo, 37, well defended, and unable to connect with his teammates. Elanga, playmaker Bruno Fernandes’s assist leader with seven, broke free to score from the inside of the area.
Elanga, who had arrived in the match just five minutes before, took advantage of Atletico’s rare space and scored United’s 500th goal in this competition, formerly known as the European Cup.
“We are a bit disappointed, we didn’t deserve a draw,” Atletico defender Jose Maria Gimenez said. “We did everything necessary to win. We were strong in defense and gave them scoring opportunities during attack. We didn’t deserve to be awarded a goal on a spurious play.
Atletico had 13 attempts, but only one goal on target. United had two from nine total. Jan Oblak, Atletico’s goalkeeper, was the one who saved the game.
Griezmann, who was on the bench with Luis Suarez and started, had the opportunity to give Atletico the lead again at the end, but his shot missed the crossbar. Atletico was also held by the woodwork shortly before halftime, when Sime Vrsaljko’s close-range header landed on the crossbar in front of Victor Lindelof, United defender.
Ronaldo had scored in each of the five group-stage matches that he played and was clearly frustrated by his team’s efforts. He also complained to the officials while going into the changing room at halftime. The 79th minute free kick was his best chance to score, and it flew high.
In his nine last games in all competitions, he has scored just one goal. This is his lowest point since he was a scoring machine during his second stint with United in 2003-09.
While playing for Real Madrid, Ronaldo was able to end Atletico’s hopes of winning the Champions League five times. He scored hat-tricks for Madrid in 2017 as well as Juventus in 2019. In addition, he converted crucial penalty kicks in finals between city rivals in 2014/2016.
In 35 career matches against Atletico, he scored 25 goals. This is the most against an opponent other than Sevilla.