Atlético Madrid captain Koke has defended his side’s poor behavior during their Champions League exit against Manchester City – although in reaction to Pep Guardiola’s time-wasting.
City qualified for the Champions League semi-finals thanks to a 0-0 draw in the second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano – to go through 1-0 on aggregate – in a solid defensive performance despite the chaos at the end of the match.
Starting an additional nine minutes of injury time in the second half, both teams were involved in a mass brawl after Felipe’s foul on Phil Foden near the sideline. Stefan Savic tried to pick up the injured Foden from the ground, causing the scuffle, while the former City defender was seen trying to hit Raheem Sterling’s head and pull Jack Grealish by the hair.
Meanwhile, Felipe received a second yellow card for his handling of Foden and his role in the brawl, but midfielder Koke claims City’s time-wasting actions have left Atleti’s players frustrated.
“The match takes you so crazy when you see that you have chances and they fall to the ground and waste time,” the Atleti captain said in a post-match interview.
“Often we are criticized for this situation, but today it was. Let’s see what people think of this. Today it was seen, we are Atletico Madrid and I am proud of this team.
“I’m proud of my teammates for this effort. I don’t have anything to scold the team for. I’m proud of everyone and the fans, who lost, kept applauding us after the match. This is Atlético.”
Video footage after the match showed the brawl continued in the tunnel, with Grealish and Savic continuing to feud while both were stopped by club staff on opposite sides of the area.
Meanwhile, unused substitute Syme Vrsaljko was seen tossing a bottle in the direction of Aymeric Laporte, with the Atleti man having to turn him away from Kyle Walker in the tunnel as well.
Asked Diego Simeone, Atleti’s coach, his views on the incident, he said, “I didn’t see it. I stayed on the field applauding the fans and greeting everyone on the field. By the time I went upstairs, everyone had gone up.”
Stones: proud that we held our nerve
Meanwhile, Manchester City defender John Stones admitted that the mass brawl at the end of the match was “not a good idea to talk about” but praised his team’s reaction to Atleti’s actions.
“We know that sometimes they try to make things work that way and I think we handled it well,” Stones said after the match. “It’s not nice to talk about. I don’t want to get into that because we played incredibly against a team that is experienced in what they do on two legs.
“I’m so proud of guys about how we control our temper. It’s so easy to get drawn into things like that. So glad you had a great night.
“We knew for sure it wasn’t an easy place to come to. It’s my first time here and it’s a hostile environment. It was a tough night in all respects but how we defended and how we controlled ourselves was unbelievable.”
Stones also addressed allegations that Foden, who was the victim of Felipe yellow-card violators, had been targeted by Atleti players – but only praised the England young international for his efforts above my feet.
“[They started] Stones said of Atleti’s handling of Foden early on, “Phil has been a threat in both games, especially when he came on the first time, he had an immediate impact.
“Then in this game, he drove us up the field and we won yards. He was great, he feels it after the game now.”
Guardiola: We were in big trouble with injuries
Atleti had very few chances to return to a tie, as Ederson was called up only once in the second leg of the Wanda Metropolitano. The Brazilian goalkeeper was forced to make a decisive stop in front of Angel Correa in the 102nd minute, in one of the last kicks of the match.
Meanwhile, City only had one major chance to extend their overall advantage when Ilkay Gundogan climbed to the post in the first half, and Pep Guardiola’s side defended most of the second half.
City coach Guardiola admitted that his team suffered during the second half of Wednesday night’s match, especially after losing key players to injury. Visitors watched Kevin De Bruyne come down and receive treatment just moments before Kyle Walker walked off the field after clashing with Renan Lodi.
City play the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool on Saturday, and injuries may not put both players in a good position at Wembley.
“We were in big trouble [with injuries]Guardiola said: “We can’t forget that we played three days ago. To play for Liverpool and to travel, come here is difficult.
“I don’t know what will happen in the next few weeks. Today we will celebrate because it is only the third time that City have reached the Champions League semi-finals.
“In the second half, hmm [Atleti] She was better than us. In the first half we had chances to do that but overall we got to the semi-finals. She deservedly deservedly during both matches.
“The opponent is very difficult. All the teams in the Champions League that come here find it difficult. We conceded very few goals but in the second half they were better. In 180 minutes, the last 25 minutes were better.”
How did the papers respond to the collapse of Atletico?
On the one night that Atletico Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League after a bad draw, the British media criticized Simeone’s team for their actions.
daily mirror Sports writer Mike Walters tweeted on Wednesday night: “Imagine supporting a team managed by Simeone, including Felipe and Savic, and really wanting them to win. What a bunch of animals # have a good night“
while, daily Mail Football writer Jacques Gauguin, who was at the Wanda Metropolitano, called Atleti’s actions “really shameful” while Martin Samuel of the same organization called the Spanish side a “painful loser”.
TalkSPORT host Adrian Durham added on Twitter: “Atleti Simeone is totally out of the law. Glad they’re out” while writer Paul Hayward added: “All the snarling and snarling and Atletico couldn’t score at either leg. Savic and Felipe: awful.”