Champions League: Man City makes history, Atletico wins in dramatic PKs
It was a night without goals in the two Champions League last-16 second legs, a pair of stalemates that saw Manchester City eliminate Dynamo Kyiv by virtue of its 3-1 victory in the first leg, while Atletico Madrid beat PSV in a dramatic penalty shootout to reach its third successive quarterfinal.
For City, this is progression to the last eight for the first time in its history. The second leg was always likely to be a formality, but even so there was something strikingly dull about the most pedestrian of 0-0 draws in which the most notable incident was a first-half injury suffered by Vincent Kompany, a huge price to pay for a game in which both sides appeared to be doing nothing more than fulfilling a contractual obligation.
The game in Madrid was far more entertaining, with PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet making a number of decent saves, while both sides hit the post. The penalties were of extraordinarily high quality. Both sides scored their first seven before Luciano Narsingh, who had come on for Luuk De Jong with three minutes of extra time remaining, hit the bar. Juanfran converted, and Atletico was through 8-7.
Here's what caught our eye from the day in the Champions League:
Player of the Day: Jeffrey Bruma, PSV
Especially with defenders, statistics don’t always tell the full story, but the sheer involvement of Bruma was extraordinary. The former Chelsea center back was a beacon of solidity, making two tackles, four interceptions and seven clearances and blocking two shots in regulation. He also won four aerial duels, 80% of those he contested. As Atletico dominated, particularly after halftime, he inspired an stubborn back four and also calmly converted his penalty in the shootout.
Moment of the Day: Jan Oblak’s key save
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Andres Guardado spread the ball from a central position just outside the box to Jurgen Locadia on the left. Using the defender Juanfran as a shield, he shaped a shot goalward and Jan Oblak, partially unsighted and diving to his left, reacted superbly to an awkward bounce to jab the ball against the post with the inside of his wrist.
It bounced back to Luuk De Jong, but he wasn’t quite able to react quickly enough to guide his header on target and it squirted parallel to the goal, hitting Marco van Ginkel before being hooked to safety. That was PSV’s chance; it never got another one.
Major Takeaway of the Day: Atletico is obdurate but struggles for goals
Although both sides had been relatively free-scoring recently, there were never going to be many goals at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico has conceded only three goals in eight European games this season, and hasn’t conceded at home in more than seven hours, but has now scored just one goal in normal time in its last six knockout ties in Europe.
Its approach is highly effective against more adventurous opponents, teams that take the initiative against it, but it can struggle to break down cussed teams. And Phillip Cocu’s PSV, back at this stage for the first time in nine years, was superbly dogged and well-organized, thwarting the great thwarters. A map of PSV’s passing showed a concentration in its own half and down the flanks, an indication of how well Atletico blocks off the center, but there is perhaps a sense that if it is to progress to the next stage, it must develop a means of scoring when the onus is on it to attack.
Quarterfinal outlook for Manchester City, Atletico Madrid
Atletico may not quite be at the same level as the side that reached the final two years ago, but it presents a formidable opponent, mentally tough, tactically flexible and incredibly difficult to break down. Perhaps there is a doubt about its capacity to find goals in knockout ties, but from here it’s likely to be facing teams that will take the game to it and allow it to play on the break.
For City, the hard work was done in the first leg, but while progress to a first Champions League quarterfinal was comfortable enough, there’s been nothing in its recent form to suggest that it can go further. Although David Silva and Sergio Aguero have the potential unlock any side, City has only won one of its last five league games and appears to be drifting since the announcement that Pep Guardiola will replace Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season.
But whatever the other virtues and flaws of City, it will be severely hampered by the probable absence of Vincent Kompany, who limped off after six minutes. This was Manchester City’s 46th game of the season, but just the 18th in which Kompany had played. Since he joined the club in 2008, this was his 14th calf problem and his fourth of the season. His regular absences have not merely hurt City defensively this season but without his leadership it has often appeared rudderless–and there must now be doubts about whether he’ll be able to line up with Belgium at Euro 2016 in the summer.
Even worse for City, it also lost Nicolas Otamendi midway through the first half, both center backs gone in 22 minutes. That left it with Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis in the center of defense. That is not a pairing that would inspire confidence.