Manchester City secured the goalless draw they needed to edge out Atletico Madrid and advance to the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday, but the match was marred by a mass brawl late in the game that continued to rage in the tunnel after full-time.
Police were seen in the tunnel at the Wanda Metropolitano as video footage showed heated arguments breaking out between the players, including Atletico’s Stefan Savic and City’s Jack Grealish, with staff trying to keep the players apart.
“I didn’t see it,” said Diego Simeone. “I was on the pitch applauding the fans. By the time I went inside there was nobody there.”
Pep Guardiola was asked about the behaviour of Atletico’s players. “Nothing to say,” he said.
The trouble began on the pitch, as Atletico defender Felipe sparked a huge brawl in the corner after taking a wild swipe at City’s Phil Foden.
Felipe was sent off but not before a crowd of players, substitutes and staff swarmed in.
“We knew it was not an easy place to come, it is a hostile environment, it was a difficult night all round and how we defended and controlled ourselves over the two legs was incredible,” City defender John Stones told BT Sport.
In the end, Kevin De Bruyne’s first-leg strike last week at the Etihad Stadium proved enough for City to claim a 1-0 victory on aggregate in Madrid, although the Belgian had to go off with an injury which, if significant, would be a hammer blow to their hopes of winning the treble.
Kyle Walker also hobbled off in the second half.
City will now face Real Madrid, with Liverpool up against Villarreal in the other semi-final to complete an all Spanish-English line-up in the last four.
Simeone was widely criticised for Atletico’s negative tactics in the first leg and there was only a minor shift here, with the plan still to keep the game tight ahead of a final push.
Atletico came close, spurning a number of late chances, but instead City advance to the semis for a second consecutive year, in sight again of their first Champions League triumph.
“If we play like we did in the second half we have no chance,” said Guardiola. “We are playing Real Madrid, the kings of this competition. We will have to suffer.”
Liverpool survive collapse
Jurgen Klopp admitted he was relieved to see Liverpool book a Champions League semi-final showdown against Villarreal as the quadruple chasers survived a late collapse in Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against Benfica.
Klopp’s side already had one foot in the last four after winning 3-1 in the quarter-final first leg in Lisbon.
They were on cruise control for long spells in the second leg at Anfield, but had to hold their nerve before advancing 6-4 on aggregate after an uncharacteristic meltdown in the closing stages.
Ibrahima Konate put Liverpool ahead before Goncalo Ramos equalised late in the first half.
When Roberto Firmino netted twice after the interval, the tie looked all but over.
However, Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Nunez struck for Benfica to briefly give the visitors hope of an astonishing escape act, before Liverpool finally restored order.
“When I’m not over the moon about qualifying for the Champions League semi-final, something is really wrong and maybe I should quit!” Klopp said.
“The situation was the defence had never played together and it was about details, staying 100 percent concentrated.
“We were 6-2 up on aggregate. The players are human beings, they were like ‘Ok job done’. But Benfica kept fighting and I respect that.
“It was not exactly what we wanted but it is absolutely not important. We are through and that’s all that matters. I’m really happy.”
The Reds will face Spanish side Villarreal in the semi-finals as they look to reach their 10th Champions League final and claim a seventh title in the competition.
Despite Villarreal’s impressive wins over Bayern Munich and Juventus in the last two rounds, Liverpool will be firm favourites to make a third Champions League final in the last five seasons.
“To beat Juventus and Bayern Munich, they deserve to be in the Champions League semi-finals. Unai Emery is the king of the cups, it is unbelievable what he is doing. But give me a bit of time to prepare it properly,” Klopp said.