Manchester City fight Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

MADRID – The last 10 or 20 minutes have seen a lot of things happen at Wanda Metropolitan, which seemed to expand long before the last whistle blew, until they almost formed another self-contained bonus game, a two-episode drama scheduled for a separate third installment.

There were some hair-pulls. A lot of time was wasted. Was there A full-fledged quarrel, Dozens of players and team staff all came down to one corner of the field to express their views. There was a flurry of yellow cards, and a bright, angry red. There was Diego Simeone, conducting his orchestra, calling the stadium bay and screaming and snarling until his last breath.

What wasn’t there, the only thing missing was a lot of real football. The flash was, of course, Atletico Madrid moving forward, desperately looking for goals that would break Manchester City’s resistance and take the game to extra time, extending their position in the Champions League for another 30 minutes or, maybe a few more weeks. For the most part, though, those last few minutes were a study of the art of not playing football.

It is certainly a part of Atletico Madrid’s identity. Simeon has spent a decade creating a team in his own image, which he plays, just as he did, with a “knife in the teeth”.

Atletico, by right, should be a heroic underdog among Europe’s elites, a counter-cultural alternative to pressure and domination. Excluding the state-backed domination of Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, it does not have the resources of its extreme neighbor Real Madrid, and yet it refuses to surrender to financial inevitability.

This is a strong proof of Simeon’s work, then, and the great effectiveness of his hints that his team could so easily and frequently play the obvious villain of the Champions League: a party of critics, instigators and cutthroats, designed and made to draw beauty and spirit from the game. Has been done, happy to break any rules available in the pursuit of victory and denies the convention, its opponents and the sense of moral purity of the game.

And yet, in the midst of all the fire and fury, it was not only Atletico who realized that a place in the semifinals was not on talent and strategy but on the grit and grizzly, the desire to do what needs to be done.

There is no team associated with beauty more than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Over the years, he has stood as the embodiment of football’s higher values, the ultimate judge of its tastes. Guardiola means sophistication and style, and he has done it all in the team he has created.

Although he did not have the qualities that prevented his side from defending Madrid, Real Madrid’s place in the Champions League semi-finals has been secured, leaving them unscathed for domestic and European treble. City have not lost to Atletico beyond their dark bananas. It lost to Atletico by borrowing them.

Some of them, at least. Like its organizers, Guardiola’s team did not seem particularly interested in playing football for once. It played for the time being, instead. Every throw-in takes an age, and every free kick and every goal kick. There was no shaking off the injury; Even the smallest bumps and wounds ensure an extended period of healing. The balls that went out of the game bounced off the line just outside the reach of Atletico players. Was too small not to be filled with any slight annoyance.

It should not be read as a critique of Manchester City; Far from it, too often, it is so easy to be fascinated by the brilliance of Guardiola’s side that its character, courage, is ignored. His record in the Premier League, in particular, has been built on defensive persimmon, like the threat of attack in recent years. The city does not shake and does not doubt; It continues, without remorse, in his conviction that it will ultimately prove to be right.

As the Metropolitanano – this smooth, modern stadium built by Simeone’s success – somehow turned into Vicente Calderon, Atletico’s crumbling, frightening, nakedly hostile former home, which carried the city, was not its magic but its talent. It’s like anything else, just like Guardiola’s recipe.

And or, in that case, it shouldn’t be read as a critique of Atletico. “Winning is more important than anything in soccer,” Simeone said after the game, after the players once again faced each other in the tunnel. “It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

Even Guardiola conceded that Atletico were close to victory, that if it had only a little more luck it could have scored, won. “They had work to score,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. We have suffered. We had big, big problems. “Another night, in another world, he thought, everything could be very different.

Simeon’s team was able to drive City so close that it was not because of his bronzemanship but because of it. In the last few minutes, as Atletico has done, there has been a lot of noise inside, just as there is a sense of frustration outside of Metropolitano’s steep concrete arrow. The crowd responded to his team’s snapping and roar, adding to the pressure a bit, changing things unexpectedly for the host. Atletico is not for fun. That’s the way it works.

“They know how to do it better than any other team in the world,” said Guardiola. No one, anywhere, plays better football than Atletico Madrid.

Guardiola sounded fascinated, similarly. He knows there are times when that is important, that is important. He knows his team will sometimes have to be like Atletico Madrid if it comes back here and has to celebrate again in a few weeks, if it has to climb the only peak it has to claim. Champions League

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