Anthony Elanga struck just five minutes after coming off the bench to earn Manchester United an unlikely 1-1 draw against Atlético in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.
7′ João Félix opens scoring with bullet header
45′ Vrsaljko header comes back off crossbar
80′ Elanga equalises five minutes after coming on
87′ Griezmann curls shot against woodwork
Match in brief: United ride their luck
Atlético made a super-charged start which was duly rewarded when João Félix met Renan Lodi’s vicious cross with a powerful header that crashed in off a post – the woodwork would not be so kind to the hosts for the rest of the night.
Lodi was a ball of energy down the Atlético left and played a key role in further first-half chances for João Félix and Šime Vrsaljko, whose deflected header struck the bar just before the interval.
United were lacking in dynamism for much of the night, but that all changed when 19-year-old Elanga came on with 15 minutes left. Moments later he raced onto Bruno Fernandes’s perfect through ball and slotted into the corner.
There was still time for Antoine Griezmann to go close, but the frame of the goal once again came to United’s rescue – their luck was in.
PlayStation® Player of the Match: João Félix (Atlético)
“He scored a fantastic goal, he worked hard and he showed a lot of quality.”
UEFA Technical Observer panel
Joseph Walker, Atlético reporter
A night of what might have been for Diego Simeone’s side, at least in terms of the result. The hosts kept United at arm’s length throughout but failed to push on when they were on top, hitting the woodwork twice, and were ultimately made to pay. Still, they’ll take confidence from the display and go into the return confident they can come away from Old Trafford victorious.
Matthew Howarth, Manchester United reporter
Make no mistake, United were incredibly fortunate to escape Estadio Metropolitano with the aggregate score still level. The Red Devils were second best for much of the contest, losing possession on numerous occasions and failing to trouble Atléti goalkeeper Jan Oblak until Elanga’s late strike. A 1-1 draw is an excellent result for Ralf Rangnick’s side under the circumstances, but there is considerable room for improvement.
Rio Ferdinand, BT Sport
“United would have taken your hand off for that result before the game, but they were lucky tonight. You’re looking for a better performance, more intensity and cohesion, and it wasn’t there. But it’s 1-1, they got a result.”
Diego Simeone, Atlético coach: “I’m really happy with the game we played. Our team spirit was great, our collective work was great, our high press was great. We need to carry on like this.”
João Félix, Player of the Match: “Last week we were practising crosses towards me, and that’s exactly what we planned. We need to continue playing like this and working hard to finish the season well.”
Anthony Elanga, Man. United goalscorer: “I’ve said how calm and cool I am. I just want to give 150% whenever I set foot on the pitch. I always tell myself I want to be the best player on the pitch.”
Ralf Rangnick, Man. United manager: “If we had played another ten minutes we might have won it, but I was very disappointed with the first half. We were far too apprehensive with the ball.”
• Elanga’s goal was United’s 500th in the European Cup.
• João Félix’s opener was his first Champions League goal since December 2020.
• Bruno Fernandes has now provided seven assists in his six Champions League appearances this season.
• This is just the second time Atlético failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 13 home Champions League knockout stage matches.
• Atlético are unbeaten in their last 15 Champions League knockout stage matches in their own stadium (W9 D6).
• United did not have a single touch in the Atlético penalty area in the entire first half.
• João Félix is the first Portuguese player to score a Champions League goal against United since Cristiano Ronaldo found the net for Juventus against them in November 2018.
João Félix – 11
Renan Lodi – 9
Bruno Fernandes – 6
Atlético: Oblak; J.M. Giménez, Savić, Reinildo; Vrsaljko, Llorente, Herrera, Kondogbia, Lodi (Lemar 76); Correa, João Félix (Griezmann 76)
Manchester United: De Gea; Lindelöf (Wan-Bissaka 66), Varane, Maguire, Shaw (Alex Telles 67); Fred, Pogba (Matić 66); Rashford (Elanga 75), Bruno Fernandes, Sancho (Lingard 82); Ronaldo
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