Manchester City have advanced to the semi-finals of the Champions League. But he did it not at all the way Josep Guardiola would like.
Diego Simeone, after losing the first match in Manchester, was destroyed by critics not for the result – for the “bus” tactics and the game according to the 5-5-0 scheme. Even a colleague of the Argentinean, the legendary Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi, was outraged.
“This is a catenaccio from the 1960s, an old idea. What is football anyway? He is not happy even if he wins. You win without deserving it, only through cunning. I do not like. It is surprising that the Spaniards, accustomed to beautiful football, accept this. Simeone has moral values. He is a leader, but he must work better and believe in himself more. Only those who do this without becoming complacent can become better. This style of play is exhausting for an audience that wants beauty and emotion,” Sacchi said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In the second leg in Madrid, Simeone had to play against Guardiola in some other way in order to win back 0-1.
The Champions League anthem was drowned out before the start of the game by the terrible whistle of the fans. Obviously, both Atletico and Manchester City have their own claims to UEFA. But why boo the beautiful music?
Football itself was more fun than a week ago in England. Simeone this time used a 5-4-1 formation, while Antoine Griezmann occasionally dropped almost behind the line of defensive midfielders. The French striker was forced to sit down so deeply the movements of his opponents. João Cancelo now closed the left flank, and not the right, but because of that he did not begin to climb forward less brazenly, plus the players of the Man City attack group were actively changing places. And even in the role of “false nine” could be Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan or Bernardo Silva.
Atlético wanted to meet the English higher, at some point a real cutting began on the field. A few minutes of the first half were spent bandaging Foden’s head. However, then Man City still put the hosts in a low defense with good ball control. The superiority of the guests in terms of possession was again impressive – 70% to 30%. Atlético’s only striker, Joao Felix, almost never met the ball in promising situations.
Before the break, Man City landed eight shots against Atlético’s only one. The statistics of assists in the other third also reflected the superiority of the leader of the Premier League – 91 to 38. But it’s funny that the hosts had the only hit on target. However, the best moment was still created by the guests, when Simeone’s team was very lucky that Gundogan sent the ball into the post from a lethal position. Forget the German, and the chances of Atlético would rush to zero.
The defeat of anti-football in the Champions League. Guardiola breaks Simeone’s ‘bus’
After the break, Atlético joined the game very energetically and acted bolder than in the previous three halves against Man City, and the leaders of the Premier League began to play in a more expectant manner. At that moment, Guardiola knelt down near the field, and not at all in order to support the well-known movement, as the English team did before the match. Pep, in the pose of a thinker, was reflecting on what was happening on the lawn, where the hosts, with their pressure, provoked the mistakes of the guests.
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An unexpected decision by Guardiola was to replace Kevin De Bruyne already in the 65th minute. A week ago, the Belgian after this time gave, perhaps, his best segment in the Manchester match. Yes, and today De Bruyne, it seems, was not so bad: he made two passes under attack (the most in Man City), struck once himself, gave 88% of accurate passes. But the coach knows better, if it’s not, of course, an injury. That’s why Pep is a genius.
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Without the Belgian, Man City are no better. Simeone’s team continued to win fights, neutrals and climb into the opponent’s box, where, for example, the fall of Ángel Correa led to think that Cancelo may have fouled on a penalty kick. “Citizens” just stopped threatening Jan Oblak’s goal, forgetting about counterattacks.
The incredibly hot ending was remembered primarily by several skirmishes of the players, the organizer of one of which was the reserve of the British – the ex-midfielder of Ufa Alexander Zinchenko. Atlético made Guardiola’s team suffer, created a crazy moment even after being left with ten men due to the removal of Felipe, but still did not escape. Man City went further, losing the second half on shots – 2:13 (on target – 1:2). And playing for time in the last minutes. After such a defeat, no one will accuse Simeone of anti-football.