Atletico Madrid captain Koke has defended his side’s moody antics during their Champions League exit to Manchester City – although he hit out at the team’s alleged time-wasting Pep Guardiola.
City qualified for the Champions League semi-finals with a 0-0 second leg draw at the Wanda Metropolitano – to go 1-0 on aggregate – in a resolute defensive display despite the chaos that emerged in the end of the meeting.
At the start of nine extra minutes of second-half stoppage time, the two groups of players were involved in a mass brawl after Felipe fouled Phil Foden near the boundary line. Stefan Savic tried to lift the injured Foden off the ground which sparked a fight, while the former City defender was also seen trying to headbutt Raheem Sterling and pull Raheem Sterling’s hair Jack Grealish.
Felipe, meanwhile, received a second yellow card for his tackle on Foden and his role in the brawl, but midfielder Koke claims City’s time-consuming antics left Atleti players frustrated.
“The game takes you into this madness when you see you have chances and they fall to the ground and waste time,” the Atleti captain said in a post-match interview.
“Many times we are criticized for this situation, but today it was them. Let’s see what people think. Today we saw it, we are Atletico de Madrid and I am proud of this team.
“I’m proud of my teammates for the effort. I can’t fault the team. I’m proud of everyone and the fans, who lost, stayed to cheer us on after the game. is Atlético.”
Atleti had very few chances to come back level in the draw as Ederson was only called up once in the Wanda Metropolitano game. The Brazilian keeper was forced into a crucial save against Angel Correa in the 102nd minute in what was one of the game’s final kicks.
City, meanwhile, had only one major chance to extend their aggregate advantage when Ilkay Gundogan headed for the post in the first half, with Pep Guardiola’s side defending for most of the game. the second half.
Stones: proud to have kept our cool
Manchester City defender John Stones, meanwhile, admitted the mass brawl at the end of the game was “not nice to talk about”, but praised his side’s reaction to Atleti’s actions.
“We know they sometimes try to make things happen like that and I think we handled it really well,” Stones said after the game. “It’s not good to talk about that. I don’t want to dwell on it because over two rounds we played unbelievably against a team so experienced in what they do.
“I’m so proud of the guys how well we controlled our tempers. It’s so easy to get sucked into stuff like that. So happy to be done and have a great night.
“We really knew it wasn’t an easy place to come. It’s my first time here and it’s a hostile environment. It was a tough night but the way we defended ourselves and how we controlled ourselves was amazing.”
Stones also touched on claims that Foden, who was the victim of Felipe’s two yellow card offenses, was targeted by Atleti players – but could only praise the young England international for his efforts on both legs.
“[They started] first doors,” Stones said of Atleti’s treatment of Foden. “Phil was such a threat in both games, especially when he first came on, an instant impact.
“Then in that game he got us up the field and gained us yards. He was outstanding, he feels that after the game now.”
Guardiola: We had big problems with injuries
City boss Guardiola admitted his side struggled in the second half of Wednesday night’s game, especially after losing two key players to injury.
The visitors saw Kevin de Bruyne come out and receive treatment moments before Kyle Walker limped off after facing Renan Lodi.
City have an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool on Saturday and injuries to both players may not put them in a good position for that encounter at Wembley.
“We were in big trouble [with injuries]”, Guardiola said. “We can’t forget that we played three days ago. Playing in Liverpool, traveling, coming here is difficult.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. Today we’re going to celebrate because it’s only the third time City have reached the Champions League semi-finals.
“In the second half, they [Atleti] were better than us. The first half we had chances to do it, but overall we are in the semi-finals. It’s well deserved in both games.
“The opponent is so tough. All the Champions League teams that come here find it difficult. We concede very few goals but in the second half they were better. In the 180 minutes, the last 25 minutes, they were better.”