'Manchester City as responsible as Atletico Madrid' for Champions League brawl - Inside Europe
The battle to reach the semi-final of the Champions League became almost literal at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as City's hard-fought aggregate win descended into chaos in the dying stages of the second leg. Players scrapped on the pitch and in the tunnel, and while Atletico were deemed the aggressors, Eurosport Spain's Samuel Garcia says all involved were to blame.
Our cartoonist Zezo’s impression of the fallout from Atletico v Man City…
Manchester City and Atletico Madrid were only separated by a single goal over two legs of their tense Champions League quarter-final.
Kevin De Bruyne's strike at the Etihad a week ago was enough for City despite a spirited fightback from the Spanish champions in the return match.
The meeting at the Wanda Metropolitano may have ended goalless, but was by no means short of talking points after a red card and a number of late flashpoints that even spilled over into the tunnel after the full-time whistle.
Atleti defender Felipe committed a cynical foul on Phil Foden in the final minute as his side chased a goal, but was none too impressed with the England forward staying grounded and attempted to haul his rival to his feet.
This prompted countless players and substitutes from both sides to pile in resulting in pushing, shoving and even hair-pulls in unsavoury, but also amusing, scenes.
‘We are screwed, we are in pain’ – Simeone after fiery CL exit to City
After Felipe was given a second yellow card and TEN minutes of stoppage time had elapsed, City celebrated qualification for the semis on the pitch. But Atleti players were none too pleased and confronted their opponents once again in the tunnel.
Players had to be held back and objects were thrown, with police having to intervene before things got more out of hand.
It’s unclear what the fallout will be as UEFA are awaiting the referees report before proceeding with an investigation.
Atletico players have mostly been painted as the aggressors, but Eurosport Spain’s Samuel Garcia explains that nobody involved comes out with much credit.
“The tunnel chaos occurred due to the tension of the final minutes and was the responsibility of both teams,” says Garcia. “Not just Atletico, as they are saying in England.”
One of the chief culprits was Stefan Savic, briefly a City player at one time incidentally, who was seen attempting to headbutt Raheem Sterling in the initial melee and grabbing Jack Grealish by the hair after being confronted by the City winger.
TV cameras caught Grealish swearing at the Montenegrin defender which may have prompted this reaction, and Savic then pursued his adversary into the tunnel at the end of the game.
Despite picking up his 13th yellow card for club and country this season during the game, Garcia suggests Savic’s behaviour was actually out of character and, far from being a troublemaker, he might well have been the one provoked by the City player.
“Savic has not had any incidents this season in Spain. This attitude is not a regular occurrence in La Liga and has only been seen in this duel with Grealish.”
Stefan Savic of Atletico Madrid and Jack Grealish of Manchester City argue during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Manchester City at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain on April 13,
Image credit: Getty Images
Atletico under Simeone have almost trademarked gamesmanship and the ‘dark arts’ as part of their repertoire, particularly in European competition. But Garcia disputes the idea that they crossed the line against City and suggests that Pep Guardiola’s team were just as guilty for the trouble, in part due to time-wasting tactics late in the game.
“The attitude of the Atletico players was not correct, especially that of Savic,” Garcia added. “But the City players did not have the best attitude either and wasted all the additional time with their tricks.
“The view in Spain is that the two teams were both responsible and that Manchester City deliberately wasted a lot of time.”
This was echoed by Atleti captain Koke who accused City players of “dropping to the ground”.
"Many times we are criticised for this situation, but today it was them,” said the midfielder in the post-match press conference.
'Make your own mind up on City trouble' - Atletico's Koke after CL exit
Garcia also said that Atleti’s reputation is probably unfair and while they certainly play with "intensity", incidents such as those against City are extremely rare.
“The key to Simeone's success was the intensity of his teams and defensive discipline," he said.
“In the Spanish league, Atletico has not problems or incidents in recent times.”
As for whether the club, or clubs, will be punished for the incident, Garcia is unsure, but points out the inconsistencies of UEFA's decisions after Simeone was targeted by fans throwing drinks in Atleti’s victory over City’s arch-rivals United in the previous round.
“Only UEFA knows what will do, but Atletico are angry because Manchester United have not been sanctioned for throwing objects at Simeone in Old Trafford.”