MANCHESTER: Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal to give Manchester City a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.
After a tight 70 minutes, City finally found its way through Atletico’s tough rearguard helped by Phil Foden’s vision. Just 79 seconds after coming off the bench, Foden slid in a fine throughball and De Bruyne raced through to fire in a low shot from a tight angle.
“We knew it was going to be pretty tough to create some opportunities,” De Bruyne said. “The first half was tight, but we didn’t give anything away and in the second half had a couple of chances. It was good that we took one.”
In the night’s other quarterfinal first leg, six-time European champion Liverpool won 3-1 at Benfica.
Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy.
Atletico played its usual cagey game as coach Diego Simeone had promised.
The first half was played at a slow tempo with City controlling most of the ball but, despite having all of its outfield players in the final third at times, being unable to create openings.
De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo both had efforts deflected wide and Aymeric Laporte missed the target with a header.
Ilkay Gundogan shot well over and Rodri had a long-range effort blocked before De Bruyne had a penalty appeal turned down and John Stones also missed.
“It is very hard,” De Bruyne said. “They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, it is very hard to find the spaces.”
It was not until the second half that the hosts tried to inject more pace into their play. That did open the game up slightly and Atletico almost capitalized with a couple of breaks from deep. Antoine Griezmann wasted one opening with a poor pass and Marcos Llorente chipped tamely at goalkeeper Ederson from another.
However, City also began to threaten more as Gundogan had an effort deflected wide and Laporte went close with a header.
City appealed for another penalty for a push by Reinildo on Sterling but it was not given. That proved Sterling’s final involvement as manager Pep Guardiola took him off in the move that changed the game.
Foden, who came on alongside Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, teed up De Bruyne for the goal.
Foden created another chance for De Bruyne soon after following a tricky run to the byline but this time Atletico had enough players back to block.
“The way we played was good because we didn’t give anything away,” De Bruyne said. “You need to be calm and patient, try to find the balls and the spaces because they were compact.”