Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden handed Manchester City a slender advantage following a hard-fought 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City did not have it easy but in the end, they proved inevitable against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

In a game that was billed as a fight between two heavily contrasting styles, it was Manchester City’s aesthetically pleasing one that came out trumps. It was not easy as Atletico Madrid made life difficult for them, practically shutting the home side out for the opening 45 minutes.

The tactical chess game continued in the second half as Manchester City continued to prove themselves against a resolute Atletico Madrid defence. Guardiola’s decision to eventually bring on Phil Foden proved the difference on the night.

The Englishman threaded through a sublime pass to Kevin de Bruyne moments after coming on and the Belgian’s strike nestled comfortably in the far corner. It proved to be the winner on the night, handing Manchester City a slender advantage ahead of their trip to the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico have no choice but to attack in the second leg, which will augur well for Guardiola who can then hit them on the counter. Defending against Simeone’s men is no mean task and having broken the deadlock in the first leg, Manchester City might have just given themselves an immeasurably valuable goal. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sets of players fared on the night.

Manchester City

Ederson Moraes: 6/10

The Brazilian had little to do as Atletico largely defended deep and adopted a safety-first approach. He made use of his good distribution skills to kick-start waves of attacks from the back and looked comfortable on the ball.

Joao Cancelo: 6/10

The Portuguese international did not have the best night out and was largely shackled by Atletico. His trademark crosses and forays forward were snuffed out, but to his credit, Cancelo did not stop trying.

John Stones: 6/10

The Englishman was largely solid and stood up to any rare forward foray that Atletico Madrid made. He also brought the ball out as Manchester City pushed the visitors deeper into their own half. Stones’s aerial prowess also helped him deal with any long balls that Atletico made into the Manchester City half.

Aymeric Laporte: 7/10

Replacing Ruben Dias is no mean feat but Laporte did so on the night with consummate ease. He did not just read the Atletico Madrid players’ movements well but also anchored the backline to keep their shape and respond to danger when needed.

Nathan Ake: 6/10

The Dutchman started in the unfamiliar left-back role on the night and was targeted by Atletico who looked to catch him off guard. However, he dealt with the pressure well and never looked out of place.

Rodri6/10

The Spanish international was Manchester City’s engine room and was not afraid to get stuck in on the night. He stood up physically to the likes of Koke and Geoffrey Kondogbia and even broke forward to join in attacks. While it was not his best performance, it did add steel to combat Atletico Madrid’s dark arts.

Ilkay Gundogan: 6/10

The veteran’s ability to arrive late into the box was largely checked by Atletico stifling his impact in the final third. However, he was ready to put in the hard work in the middle of the pitch and helped Manchester City retain possession numerous times.

Kevin De Bruyne: 8/10

The Belgian international was Manchester City’s orchestrator-in-chief and helped launch waves upon waves of attacks on the Atletico goal. He latched onto an excellent pass by Foden in the second half to score past Jan Oblak. The strike could prove to be pivotal in the grand scheme of things.

Riyad Mahrez: 5/10

The Algerian was largely shackled and had no standout moments on the night. His ability to attack opponents head-on and make threatening set-piece deliveries were all non-existent on the night.

Bernardo Silva: 6/10

The Portuguese international weaved through rigid Atletico defensive lines to link up with his teammates and was not afraid to get his hands dirty when needed. It might not look like he does much, but Silva remains a pivotal part of the Manchester City system that systematically takes apart opposition defences.

Raheem Sterling: 3/10

The English international lacked bite all night and provided little threat going forward. Sime Vrsalkjo had him beat and it came as no surprise that Sterling was taken off in the second half.

SUBSTITUTES

Jack Grealish: 6/10

The English international replaced the ineffective Sterling in the 68th minute and was an instant upgrade. He was always available for a pass and made himself a nuisance for the Atletico Madrid backline.

Phil Foden: 8/10

Foden was undoubtedly Guardiola’s trump card off the bench and instantly sparked the Manchester City attack to life. Foden weaved his way through the Atletico Madrid defence with ease and set up De Bruyne for the winner with immaculate grace.

Gabriel Jesus: 6/10

The Brazilian replaced a jaded Gundogan and provided Manchester City with a focal point in attack. Jesus found little joy himself as Atletico Madrid gave him little space to run into.

Atletico Madrid

Jan Oblak: 6/10

The Atletico Madrid shot-stopper, to his credit, did not put a foot wrong and was reliable in goal. There was little he could do to stop De Bruyne’s winner in what was one of two shots on target by Manchester City. Oblak was commanding otherwise and marshalled his defence well.

Renan Lodi: 5/10

The Brazilian was not as physical as his teammates but put in a disciplined performance on the left side of the Atletico Madrid defence. However, his focus wavered as the game went on, and he should have been more alert to De Bruyne’s run for the winner.

Reinildo Mandava: 5/10

Reinildo was solid for most of the night and maintained a disciplined presence within the Atletico backline. However, it was his lapse of judgement that enabled De Bruyne to run into space and latch onto Foden’s sublime pass for the winner. For all of his efforts until then, Reinildo’s momentary lapse undid much of Simeone’s game plan.

Felipe: 7/10

Felipe was the pick of Atletico’s defenders and did an excellent job of stifling Manchester City’s movement. He largely dealt with whatever was thrown at him and showed calmness that stuck with him throughout the night.

Stefan Savic: 6/10

The Montenegrin defender stepped up in Jose Gimenez’s absence and marshalled the backline well. He showed good awareness to make several last-ditch tackles and blocks and was not afraid to get stuck in. He was a reliable option throughout the night.

Sime Vrsaljko: 7/10

The veteran Croat was defensively sound and had Raheem Sterling in his pocket all night. Jack Grealish also found little joy against him as the right-hand side of the Atletico Madrid defence proved impenetrable. 

Koke: 6/10

The Atletico Madrid skipper was a bundle of energy and covered every single blade of grass on the night. He was running on empty fuel tanks by the hour mark and was taken off. Koke was instrumental in keeping De Bruyne quiet and the Belgian made merry in his absence.

Geoffrey Kondogbia: 5/10

A physical presence in the middle of the pitch, Kondogbia struggled to keep up with Foden who blindsided him on several occasions. It undid a lot of the good work that the Frenchman did until that point.

Marcos Llorente: 5/10

The Spaniard’s pace was used as a mean to hit Manchester City on the counter, but he was unable to time it right to attain maximum impact. Llorente struggled to particularly stand out and was rightly taken off around the hour mark.

Joao Felix: 6/10

The Portuguese sensation pressed from the front and showed excellent movement in attack. He also got in behind the Manchester City defence but could not unfortunately make the difference. Felix could prove to be a real threat for Guardiola’s side in the return leg.

Antoine Griezmann: 6/10

The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner was an excellent foil to Felix and matched the youngster’s energy and application. Griezmann had a good chance to break the deadlock in the second half but failed to do so. He kept up his energy levels until he was somewhat surprisingly taken off.

SUBSTITUTES

Rodrigo De Paul: 3/10

The lone standout moment for the Argentine was to earn a yellow card soon after coming on for a foul on Jack Grealish. He faded after that and was Atletico Madrid’s invisible man on the night.

Angel Correa: 4/10

Correa produced little of note apart from attempting to rile up Grealish. Simeone was better off keeping him on the bench.

Matheus Cunha: 5/10

Atletico Madrid’s hero at Old Trafford struggled to find the finishing touch at the Etihad. Cunha did his best and was always ready to dribble past the Manchester City defenders. However, his end product was massively lacking on the night.

Thomas Lemar: 4/10

The Frenchman got forward well but left space behind him for Manchester City to exploit. Lemar pressed well but provided little at either end of the pitch.

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