What a second half that was! I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief as i was seeing Atletico play out of our press time and again with such ease and simplicity. How could Atletico play one touch football with such precision. It seemed absolutely impossible. But, here it was bamboozling the City defense time and again. It seemed only a matter of time before we conceded the first and maybe even more on the night. It seemed as if we forgot how to play and we went into a shell. We simply were not able to play out of the back and every long punt from Ederson was coming back at us with a ferocious pace
I was suddenly thinking about that tie against Monaco where we were frozen by the situation and got knocked out. A part of me was bringing a sense of calm with the fact that we are a more experienced Champions League team now and we cannot let this tie slip away from our hands. There simply seemed to be no outlet for us to play the ball out of defense. For a while, i was thinking about the tactical shape and how we were getting outnumbered in the midfield. It was just absolute chaos and the clock was ticking as fast as a snail.
The difficulty here for City was the fact that Atletico were practicing their dark arts as well. It was a display of their complete bag of tricks. We were getting battered physically as well along with their swarming attacks on our box. We completely forgot to win the second balls and it only seemed a matter of time before they would unlock us. These are the kind of matches that City of the past would have lost. These are the kind of physical battles that City of the past would have surrendered to rather tamely.
The way we defended under pressure was out of this world. That block from John stones was surely the pick of the lot, that shot from Cunha was definitely headed for the bottom corner. Walker was immense in managing Felix and Renan Lodi throughout the game. People often doubt the defensive abilities of Cancelo, but he was elite in the tie. Ake was supreme in the first tie and he continued his majestic form here as well. Ake brought leadership to that defense which was looking a bit shaky and he was immense in the way he defended those balls over the top.
Foden helped out his defensive colleagues by taking physical blows and carrying the ball up the pitch as often as possible. You only have to look at Foden to summarize the tie. He was hurt everywhere, right from the head injury in the first half to that dangerous swipe by Felipe in the second half. Yet, he did not allow his spirit to be broken and carried on helping his team mates.
I feel that this tie against Atletico Madrid is a significant turning point in our Champions League history. This is the defensive resilience that was missing from us in the past years. The belief that this defensive performance will give us is unimaginable. We suffered well and showed our personality in the midst of eternal attacks. This is the day and date when we have truly arrived in the Champions League.
Being battered constantly and yet we did not flinch, being battered physically and yet we did not yield. Such resilience requires an unbreakable spirit above all and City have shown that in plenty to us yesterday. This is a tie that marks a new beginning and sounds out our arrival to all of our opponents. The only questions marks on us were if we could do it this way and of course we can was the resounding answer from us.