Set small text size
Set default text size
Set large text size
A header from Renan Lodi in the first half and a defensive masterclass secured Atletico Madrid a deserved 1-0 win at Manchester United to earn a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
United could not find a breakthrough after a promising start and Lodi’s clinical finish for the only goal at Old Trafford gave Atletico a 2-1 aggregate victory after a 1-1 draw at Madrid.
Champions League elimination stacks United who are only fifth in the Premier League and unlikely to qualify for the elite competition next season. They will fail to win a trophy again this season.
Their last trophy was the Europa League title in 2017 and means the first United can clinch the silverware by winning next season’s League Cup final, which is due to take place on February 26, 2023.
After winning the 1977 FA Cup, they had to wait until 1983 for their next triumph when they won the competition again.
United’s win rate of 45% in all competitions this season is its lowest since 1989-90.
Atletico also struggled domestically after their stunning La Liga triumph in 2021, but their progress shows coach Diego Simeone hasn’t completely lost his magic touch.
In Amsterdam, two-time winners Benfica performed a classic smash and grab to eliminate four-time champions Ajax through a late header from Darwin Nunez.
Benfica were second best throughout but somehow survived the Ajax onslaught and went 3-2 on aggregate.
Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are already in the quarter-final draw on Friday.
Defending champions Chelsea aim to join them on Wednesday as they defend a 2-0 lead at Lille while Juventus and Villarreal resume in Turin to draw 1-1.
A raucous Old Trafford roared early on when Anthony Elanga – whose first leg equalizer saved a poor United performance – passed keeper Jan Oblak to head just over and the Sweden striker moved closer a few more moments later.
A sweeping move produced a cross from the right but Elanga’s effort at the near post hit Oblak in the head and flew to safety.
Atletico slowly entered the draw and only a marginal offside on Marcos Llorente resulted in Joao Felix’s tap-in dismissal.
United didn’t take the warning though and Felix’s clever backheel found Antoine Griezmann and his cross found Lodi at the back post to head home in the 41st minute.
United raced through the second half and Jadon Sancho flew wide before Oblak brilliantly fended off a Raphael Varane header.
Former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo was totally contained by his former rivals and failed to get a single shot on goal.
Ajax started positively against Benfica and Sebastien Haller had a potential 12th goal in the tournament disallowed for offside.
Benfica’s goal led an enchanted life and Ajax were punished by conceding a soft free kick through by Alejandro Grimaldo.
Goalkeeper Andre Onana was beaten to the ball by Nunez 13 minutes from time and Benfica had no trouble seeing off a shock victory.