Sunday, July 3

ATLETICO MADRID V MAN CITY ROUND-BY-ROUND: How the Champions League tie descended into CHAOS

Atletico Madrid v Man City ROUND-BY-ROUND: From Correa hitting the ball into Grealish’s face to Savic’s red card and police storming the tunnel to break up a brawl… how the European tie turned nasty!

  • Manchester City and Atletico Madrid’s European clash descended into chaos  
  • Atletico defender Felipe was sent off for a hack on City forward Phil Foden 
  • Stefan Savic tried to haul Foden up and appeared to headbutt Raheem Sterling  
  • He avoided a red card but melee formed and brawl broke out in the tunnel
  • Tensions started in first leg when Jack Grealish was targeted by Atletico players
  • Pep Guardiola added subplot with dig at Diego Simeone which he later denied 

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When a manager of a team admits ‘there are things we are not good at’, it is usually a forthright assessment of their side’s shortcomings in a footballing sense.

But when Pep Guardiola uttered those same words about his Manchester City side, it was never going to be about ability on the pitch for a group of Premier League winners.

Instead the Catalan boss was warning his side to keep their emotions in check ahead of the second leg of their quarter-final clash against Atletico Madrid, a match which would be goalless, therefore sealing City’s progression through to the Champions League semi-finals.

Manchester City's clash with Atletico Madrid descended into chaos on Wednesday evening

Manchester City's clash with Atletico Madrid descended into chaos on Wednesday evening

Manchester City’s clash with Atletico Madrid descended into chaos on Wednesday evening

A melee broke out towards the end of the second leg after Felipe's hack on Phil Foden

A melee broke out towards the end of the second leg after Felipe's hack on Phil Foden

A melee broke out towards the end of the second leg after Felipe’s hack on Phil Foden

‘We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do,’ he said. Quite frankly, Diego Simeone could have done with offering similar words of advice to his Atletico players before the return leg at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday evening. 

Atletico were still in the tie when Phil Foden broke away late on down the left-hand side, which was met by a strong, but fair challenge by Felipe. A tackle most fans love to see in the game. What followed after that challenge however is not appreciated.

A melee, somehow just one red card and the referee quickly losing control of a high-profile match followed, and after some 13 minutes of added time it continued into the tunnel at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Of course, some may have considered a warning in Simeone’s pre-match press conference ahead of the second leg too late anyway, given tempers had already flared at the Etihad Stadium.

Stefan Savic - heavily involved before and during the melee - escaped a red card despite appearing to headbutt Raheem Sterling

Stefan Savic - heavily involved before and during the melee - escaped a red card despite appearing to headbutt Raheem Sterling

Stefan Savic – heavily involved before and during the melee – escaped a red card despite appearing to headbutt Raheem Sterling

For 82 minutes of the first leg, little appeared to boil over and everyone instead was revelling in Phil Foden’s instant impact from the bench to set up Kevin De Bruyne with 20 minutes remaining.

But it was what happened to another City substitute – Jack Grealish, who was routinely fouled after coming on – that would be the sign of things to come in a tie which would ultimately descend into chaos just a week later. 

Atletico had seemingly lined up their target, and the flashpoint arrived when forward Angel Correa smashed the ball into the face of the England international when he was lying on the ground. 

Grealish confronted Correa and his team-mates as tensions came to boiling point, but on this occasion disgraceful scenes were avoided largely thanks to Guardiola, who shoved his own player to ensure he did not get into any further trouble.

Atletico’s efforts to rile Grealish up did not stop with Sime Vrsaljko flicking the 26-year-old’s hair and having words with him, while Stefan Savic also exchanged some verbals. It would not be the former and current City players’ last clash in the tie.

The Montenegro defender told Grealish: ‘I’ll have you in Madrid’. The former Aston Villa star told him to give it his best shot.

Tensions first boiled in the tie in the first leg, when Atletico players try to rile Jack Grealish

Tensions first boiled in the tie in the first leg, when Atletico players try to rile Jack Grealish

Tensions first boiled in the tie in the first leg, when Atletico players try to rile Jack Grealish

Angel Correa kicked the ball into the face of Grealish, who had come on as a substitute

Angel Correa kicked the ball into the face of Grealish, who had come on as a substitute

Angel Correa kicked the ball into the face of Grealish, who had come on as a substitute

Yet despite being perhaps the sole reason why tensions did not escalate, Guardiola praised Grealish after the first leg. ‘The ref is there, Jack reacted really well and focused on what he had to do in the game.’

But it was another one of Guardiola’s comments – about the side and manager he had just faced – which added yet another subplot. 

Atletico failed to register a shot on goal at the Etihad Stadium in an overwhelmingly defensive display. It led Guardiola to say: ‘They have gone 5-5-0. Two lines of five. And in prehistory, today and in a hundred thousand years, attacking a 5-5 is very difficult.’ 

Atletico captain Koke was the first to react on social media, before Simeone said: ‘I understand that there are various ways to play each game. So when one [coach] is derogatory, I don’t believe in that. Everyone has a certain ways of doing things and I respect my colleagues, always, always, always.’ 

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Anyone not familiar with Simeone’s Atletico could easily have mistaken his ultra defensive first-leg tactics for showing the opposition too much respect. That would not be the verdict by the end of the second leg, for more reasons than one. 

But it was Pep Guardiola who pushed his player away to avoid him getting into trouble

But it was Pep Guardiola who pushed his player away to avoid him getting into trouble

But it was Pep Guardiola who pushed his player away to avoid him getting into trouble

Guardiola also app

Guardiola also app

Koke responded to Guardiola’s comments about style by saying: ‘In love with your story since prehistory. Proud to be from Atleti’

The Spanish champions were far more adventurous on home soil but failed to really test Ederson despite valiant efforts from the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Correa. 

But towards the end, frustration they had still not restored parity in the tie now appeared to be behind the home side’s attempts to rile up their opponents. So the last thing they wanted to see was Foden charging down the left in the 89th minute.

Felipe’s tackle brought the break to a halt, but he made the mistake of kicking out at him afterwards, which saw the England man writhing in pain on the floor.

The only defence Savic could then have had for dragging Foden back on to the pitch, appearing to believe the forward was time wasting, was that he had not seen his team-mate’s hack. 

But what followed next from the Montenegrin was unpalatable as a melee formed around him on the left-hand side of the pitch in the Atletico half.

The disgraceful second leg scenes started when Felipe hacked Foden and then Savic went to haul him up off the floor

The disgraceful second leg scenes started when Felipe hacked Foden and then Savic went to haul him up off the floor

The disgraceful second leg scenes started when Felipe hacked Foden and then Savic went to haul him up off the floor

The 31-year-old appeared to headbutt Raheem Sterling – which somehow resulted in just a yellow card following a VAR review – before renewing his feud with Grealish by exchanging words with him during the brawl and pulling his hair.

While Savic may have avoided a red card, Felipe did not. But even despite the Brazilian’s expulsion, there was a lingering feeling this was far from over.

When Savic went to face Foden moments later, Simeone tried to repeat Guardiola’s  intervention in the first leg with Grealish by yelling at his defender: ‘No. Play’. 

But the Argentine – also seen clapping which was meant as something between sarcastic applause towards the officials and genuine appreciation of the raucous atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano – had stepped on to the field.

He was therefore booked, the last of six cautions to have been handed out in stoppage time. But even as that applause continued after the final whistle, the hostility did escalate in the tunnel.

Diego Simeone came on to the pitch to try and calm Savic down but was also one of six bookings

Diego Simeone came on to the pitch to try and calm Savic down but was also one of six bookings

Diego Simeone came on to the pitch to try and calm Savic down but was also one of six bookings

Savic followed Grealish – who is now reportedly known as ‘Peaky Jack’ by some of his team-mates as a nickname referencing the hit TV series Peaky Blinders about a tough gang in Birmingham – inside the tunnel and appeared to attack the substitute. 

Footage online also showed City goalkeeper Scott Carson and Vrsaljko clashed, while City No 1 Ederson flicked two fingers at Atletico fans. 

Four local policemen, dressed in riot gear, then rushed down towards the dressing rooms as a shameful night got even worse.

Marcos Llorente was seen throwing an object in the direction of Aymeric Laporte in the tunnel area, while there appeared to be a physical altercation later in a clip circulating online, and there were reports objects were thrown at members of the opposite camps. 

But City knew they had kept their heads. ‘We know that they sometimes try and make things happen like that and we dealt with it really well,’ John Stones said.

Yet his boss Guardiola – showered by bottles raining from the stands as he ran down the tunnel – refused to discuss what happened in his press conferences. Instead he was intent on clarifying his comments on Simeone’s team.

Asked about his ‘prehistory’ comments, he said: ‘Don’t be mistaken. I didn’t say that. I said that always [whether] many years before or today, when a team defends very well defensively, it is always difficult. I only said that.’

Simeone was seemingly not having any of it. ‘Often, people who talk really well, and are really clever, they manage to praise you with contempt. But those of us who perhaps have a smaller vocabulary are not so stupid either.’

The actions from his side undoubtedly were though, and they mean the footballing world may well be on tenterhooks if and when these two sides meet again in the future. 

Pep Guardiola refused to comment on the melee after the game but clarified his 'prehistory' comments

Pep Guardiola refused to comment on the melee after the game but clarified his 'prehistory' comments

Pep Guardiola refused to comment on the melee after the game but clarified his ‘prehistory’ comments

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