UCL: Elanga earns Manchester United late draw at Atletico Madrid
A late goal from substitute Anthony Elanga rescued a 1-1 draw for Manchester United at Atletico Madrid in their UEFA Champions League last-16 first-leg clash on Wednesday.
Manchester United, looking disjointed and lacking spark, were cornered from the start by a relentless Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish side opened the scoring after seven minutes with a brilliant header by Joao Felix from Renan Lodi’s cross.
However, with just 10 minutes remaining, Manchester United scored with their first real chance of the match.
Elanga, having only come on five minutes earlier, coolly slotted past goalkeeper Jan Oblak following Bruno Fernandes’ through ball.
“The truth is I’m annoyed. I don’t think we deserved to draw. We did a lot to win. We were totally superior to them in almost every aspect of play,” Atletico Madrid’s Josema Gimenez said after the game.
“We defended well, we created chances, clear chances, we hit the woodwork twice. In the end if you aren’t clinical, they’re very good too.
“When it opened up, we lost the ball, we knew it was a strength of theirs, we had to defend well. It’s a chance goal. We totally deserved the win.”
Atletico Madrid domainated the first half, in spite of Manchester United dominating possession.
This is because Ralf Rangnick’s side failed to register a single touch in the opposition’s penalty area throughout the opening 45 minutes.
The home side’s manager Diego Simeone was rewarded in his decision to start Felix in attack alongside Angel Correa with Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann on the substitutes’ bench.
Meanwhile, Rangnick opting to start Victor Lindelof, traditionally a central defender, as a right-back appeared to backfire.
The Sweden international was targeted by Lodi and it was down their left side that the hosts looked most dangerous.
Sime Vrsaljko almost doubled Atletico Madrid’s lead on the stroke of half-time as his effort hit against the bar after Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes had got a touch on Lodi’s cross.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been Atletico Madrid’s chief tormentor in the Champions League for both Real Madrid and Juventus, failed to influence proceedings this time around.
Meanwhile, four-time winner Raphael Varane looked nervous on his return to the Spanish capital.
Atletico Madrid went in search of the second goal their performance deserved as they sent on Griezmann and Thomas Lemar in the 75th minute.
But the hosts failed to add a crucial second goal and it was Manchester United who got the late strike through Elanga.
Griezmann hit the Manchester United bar with a stunning curling effort four minutes from time.
“That was my first touch as well. I have dreamt of moments like this, scoring in the Champions League,” Elanga said.
“A big occasion like this, against a top European team like Atletico Madrid, is a dream come true.
“But it’s only the first half, and we’ve got to be ready for Old Trafford in a couple of weeks.”
The return leg will be played at Old Trafford on March 15.(Reuters/NAN)