Top Winners and Losers After Wednesday's Champions League Quarter-Finals Leg 2 Result

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 13, 2022

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 13:  Oleksandr Zinchenko and Phil Foden of Manchester City clash with Marcos Llorente and Stefan Savic of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg Two match between Atletico Madrid and Manchester City at Wanda Metropolitano on April 13, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Liverpool and Manchester City are headed to the Champions League semifinals. They couldn't have taken more divergent paths to get there. 

While Liverpool drew with Benfica 3-3 on Wednesday, winning 6-4 in aggregate, City held on for dear life against Atletico Madrid to earn a scoreless draw and a 1-0 victory in aggregate. 

Liverpool will face Villarreal in the semifinals while Man City takes on Real Madrid in a pair of Premier League versus La Liga showdowns. But first, let's get to Wednesday's winners and losers.

Winner: Roberto Firmino 

When Robert Firmino notched his brace, it seemed as though it was the cherry on top of a comprehensive victory for Liverpool, not a godsend. After all, the Reds were up 3-1 on the day and 6-2 on aggregate. 

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Jota's cross, Firmino doesn’t miss. 🔴 <a href="https://t.co/jLwaNjgmlO">pic.twitter.com/jLwaNjgmlO</a>

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Firmino. Crisp volley. Tie over. 🤝 <a href="https://t.co/vg9g1cCmHj">pic.twitter.com/vg9g1cCmHj</a>

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Roberto Firmino becomes only the 4th player in Liverpool history to score 20+ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a> goals<br><br>🇪🇬 33 Mohamed Salah <br>🇸🇳 22 Sadio Mané<br>🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 21 Steven Gerrard<br>🇧🇷 20 Roberto Firmino <a href="https://t.co/cIUdHo3zBl">pic.twitter.com/cIUdHo3zBl</a>

But Benfica came storming back, with two goals, and suddenly that brace was the difference in the tie. 

Firmino doesn't always get the same shine as his attacking counterparts Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. But Liverpool is heading to the UCL semifinals because of his contributions. 

Loser: Liverpool's Defending

It didn't matter in the end, but Liverpool allowed itself to be carved to shreds in the defending third. Such are the perils of playing a high line against a dangerous team like Benfica. 

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Goncalo Ramos HIT that. <br><br>Benfica aren't giving up with out a fight. 🍿 <a href="https://t.co/SPSZEHmcIk">pic.twitter.com/SPSZEHmcIk</a>

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Roman Yaremchuk gets Benfica a consolation. <a href="https://t.co/GR52LgP0XE">pic.twitter.com/GR52LgP0XE</a>

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Darwin Núñez gives Benfica some hope. 🍿 <a href="https://t.co/dB2ODCIOz1">pic.twitter.com/dB2ODCIOz1</a>

This is always the rub with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. In a flash, the Reds can break apart a team with a brilliant attacking move. But their aggression also means they are often just as vulnerable to a counterattack. 

Up next for Liverpool will be Villarreal, who soaked up Bayern Munich's pressure and struck them in the counter in their shocking upset of the Bavarian giants. Unai Emery will study Tuesday's tape carefully. 

Winner: City's Resolute Defending

Atletico didn't exactly stress City for the full 90 minutes, with Diego Simeone's conservative style keeping the tie close but not really threatening the Cityzens until later in the second half. 

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

It only took two hours and four minutes of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a> QF action for Atleti to have a shot against City. 😬 <a href="https://t.co/QBUFFr38iw">pic.twitter.com/QBUFFr38iw</a>

Rory Smith @RorySmith

I'd find the idea that Simeone would be content with being a goal down with 45 minutes to play at home much more convincing if Atletico had looked like scoring at any point in the first 135 minutes of the tie.

But when Atletico ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, City felt it. And it responded, with last-gasp tackles, crucial blocks on shots in the box and solid goalkeeping. 

James Horncastle @JamesHorncastle

Atleti are who they are. Their fans love it. If it gets a bit 1960s European champions going to Argentina for the Intercontinental Cup so be it. Coming through that actually makes City’s season in the Champions League... interesting

Oliver Holt @OllieHolt22

If City can get past that, tempting to think they can get past anything

Mark Ogden @MarkOgden_

That was one of Man City’s great CL performances. Stood up to all sorts of nonsense and kept their heads. Showed they can defend as well as they can attack

It wasn't pretty for City, but it went on the road with a one-goal advantage and held it. It proved it could win a game against an opponent that mucked up the contest and forced it out of its comfort zone. That's the sign of a complete side. 

Loser: Atletico's Tactics and Composure

It was pretty clear in this one that Atletico decided to play bully, attacking City's precision and skill with physicality and aggression. 

Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney

Seems apparent that Atletico's main ambition is to physically intimidate City and knock them out of their rhythm, until they can gradually try and nick one.

Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney

Not so much "tactical fouling" from Atletico as "fouling as a tactic".

David McDonnell @DiscoMirror

City on top in the first-half and not fazed by Atletico's belligerence and attempts to physically knock them out of their stride. Atletico must score, which will surely see space open up for City to exploit after the break <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MCFC?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MCFC</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MirrorFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MirrorFootball</a>

It didn't work. 

And when it didn't work, Atletico became more and more desperate, leading to a late-game kerfuffle that saw Felipe sent off on a straight red for a poor tackle on Phil Foden and a clash between the teams after Stefan Savic tried to pull Foden off the pitch, clearly feeling the attacker was attempting to waste time. 

The Athletic UK @TheAthleticUK

Unsavoury scenes between the teams at the Wanda Metropolitano overshadowed Manchester City’s progression into the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a> semi-finals at Atletico Madrid’s expense. <a href="https://t.co/1ouHb9As2M">pic.twitter.com/1ouHb9As2M</a>

James Benge @jamesbenge

Maybe if Atletico hadn't set the stage for a desperate late charge they might not have made desperate late decisions?<br><br>I do appreciate that Atletico couldn't really have tried to go head to head with City for two legs but maybe they could have played more than a 1/4 of the tie?

Paul Hayward @_PaulHayward

All that bluster and snarl and Atletico couldn't score in either leg.<br>Savic and Felipe: horrible.

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Felipe's own teammates over to usher him off the pitch, he kicks the TV microphone when finally leaves. That's Atletico screwed now even if they do equalise...

Phil McNulty @philmcnulty

What a surprise. Atletico losing and some disgraceful stuff. Foden kicked to the floor then Savic tries to drag him up.

The question, of course, is whether Atletico might have responded in such a poor way if it hadn't left everything so late in the first place. Perhaps if Simeone had his charges play a bit more assertive going forward earlier, Atletico might not have found itself so pressed for time as the game wore on. 

The conservative approach held City to just one goal over two games, no small task against a side averaging over two goals per game in Premier League play. But there are no moral victories in the Champions League, and Atletico's inability to score and maintain its composure has ended its semifinal dreams.