Top Winners and Losers After Wednesday's Champions League Quarter-Finals Leg 2 ResultApril 13, 2022
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.
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&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.
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.
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.
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.
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&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&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?
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.