Sports Desk, Aug 13 (efe-epa).- Atletico Madrid were favored in Thursday’s Champions League quarterfinal against an RB Leipzig side who just saw their best player leave for greener pastures, but the underdogs prevailed 2-1 to reach the final four of Europe’s elite club competition in just the 11th year of their existence.
The Colchoneros, the only team to lose three Champions League finals, could have been forgiven for thinking that 2020 would be their year, as the side that beat them in the final on the two most recent occasions, Real Madrid, crashed out of the competition last week.
And in the last Champions contest before Covid-19 sidelined professional sports for months, Atleti eliminated holders Liverpool in a thriller at Anfield.
Leipzig, a club founded in 2009, faced their first-ever appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals without Timo Werner, who scored 34 goals in 45 games for the Bundesliga squad before departing for Chelsea.
But the Leipzig attack showed no sign of suffering from the absence of Werner and Atletico would have gone behind in the 4th minute if Marcel Halstenberg hadn’t sent his shot over the cross-bar.
Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez tested Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.
After thwarting Gimenez, the keeper collided with Atletico’s Saul Ñiguez while pursuing the loose ball. Colchoneros coach Diego Simeone lobbied for a penalty, but the referee was unmoved.
At the other end of the pitch, the closest Leipzig came was a header from Dayot Upamecano off a corner that went straight into the hands of Atleti keeper Jan Oblak.
Five minutes into the second half, Dani Olmo headed-in a cross from Marcel Sabitzer to put Leipzig up 1-0. The goal was built on the patient, methodical approach that has become the signature of the Red Bulls’ attack.
As the hour mark approached, Simeone decided to take a flyer on Joao Felix, whose first season with Atletico has been plagued by inconsistency.
On this Thursday evening in Lisbon, the Portuguese international was on his game and his presence had an immediate effect on Atletico’s performance.
Felix took command of the Atleti attack and won a penalty when Lukas Klostermann pulled him down in the area. The 20-year-old converted to level the contest at 1-1.
The match looked to be headed to extra-time until Leipzig’s Tyler Adams tried his luck from 20 yards and the young American’s strike deflected off Savic and past Oblak to make it 2-1.
The first goal by a US international beyond the round-of-16 in the Champions League turned out to be the difference and Leipzig will battle Paris Saint-Germain for a spot in the final. EFE