Pep Guardiola talks up Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden after Atletico win

The duo linked up for the winning goal in the 70th minute.

Andy Hampson
Tuesday 05 April 2022 23:19
Pep Guardiola’s side beat Atletico 1-0 (Mike Egerton/PA)
Pep Guardiola’s side beat Atletico 1-0 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Pep Guardiola hailed the brilliance of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden after the pair combined to give Manchester City the edge in their Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid.

Foden came off the bench to tee up De Bruyne for a 70th-minute winner in a tense and tight quarter-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The strike ensured City would carry a 1-0 advantage into next week’s return clash in the Spanish capital.

Reflecting on De Bruyne’s composed finish, manager Guardiola said: “He is in the best moment of the season right now.

“He is sharp, quick and positive. His influence in our game is massive. He scored an exceptional goal from the combination with Phil.”

De Bruyne had earlier tested Jan Oblak from a free-kick but opportunities had otherwise been few and far between as City, despite dominating possession, were forced to play a patient game.

Atletico were dogged and defensive and it took the introduction of Foden as part of a triple substitution in the 68th minute to force them open.

Foden slipped in De Bruyne within moments of coming on and the Belgian fired home from a tight angle.

Guardiola said of Foden: “He has a special quality. His reception is always forward, his space in the first step is massive and he had the composure to make an incredible assist for Kevin.”

Guardiola felt his side produced a professional performance to grind out what could prove a vital win.

He said: “It was a difficult game against a tough opponent. For 25-30 minutes we played 5-5-0 as it was so difficult to find the spaces.

“But we were patient enough, except in the first 5-10 minutes of the second half, when we attacked with not the right rhythm.

“It was a good result. Unfortunately at the end we (missed) one or two more chances to score but 1-0 going to Madrid gives you confidence.”

The game ended in scrappy fashion with numerous stoppages as Atletico let their frustration show.

Guardiola now expects the second leg to be a stop-start affair with Atletico attempting to disrupt City’s rhythm.

He said: “I guess part of the game will be more of what happened in the last 15-20 minutes after the goal. This is my feeling. We have to prepare and adapt.”

Jack Grealish, another substitute, did get caught up in some of the visitors’ antics late on and Guardiola stressed the importance of keeping composure.

He said: “We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do. There are things we are not good at but there will be a referee there.

“Atletico Madrid have faced these kind of knockout stages many times more than us and it will be a good test of our maturity.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone conceded the better side won but feels his team are still alive in the tie.

He said: “It is a bad result because we lost 1-0 and we were looking to win.

“It is clear we were playing against an extraordinary opponent. The numbers and statistics speak for themselves and they play in a very dynamic way.

“We had to suffer but we have to go to Madrid now and use the tools we have at our disposal.

“We need to be better but we are still in the tie. Let’s see if we can have the ball more in the second leg and create more difficulties for opponents.”

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