While they might have been far from at their best on Wednesday night, Manchester United managed to grab what could turn out to be an all-important goal away at Atletico Madrid as they played out a 1-1 draw.
Leaving it late before dragging themselves level at a noisy Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico Madrid would have been disappointed to have not ended their Champions League first-leg meeting with an advantage to show for their troubles.
On a contest that was largely one-way traffic in the Spanish capital on Wednesday night, we have taken a look at the main talking points as the Premier League giants managed to save some face.
Elanga to the rescue
While Manchester United might have been looking to build off of the momentum that they picked in their 4-2 win away at Leeds last weekend, Ralf Rangnick’s men really struggled to find their feet for long periods here.
Making the shock call to start Victor Lindelöf at right-back ahead of both Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the former RB Leipzig boss would have thought he was in for a long night’s work when Atletico opened the scoring after just seven minutes.
With former Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo enduring a difficult night on his return to the Spanish capital, Wednesday’s traveling support had little to cheer about, especially in the first-half.
Failing to ask any questions of Jan Oblak, there is no doubt that Rangnick would have been relieved to have seen United’s latest attacking starlet drag his side over the finish line here.
Finding the net against Leeds at Elland Road last weekend, Anthony Elanga made another eye-catching impact after coming off the bench with just 15 minutes left on the clock.
Latching onto Bruno Fernandes’ through ball and slotting past Oblak, who almost certainly got his angles wrong, Elanga’s vital finish could prove costly when United return to Old Trafford in a few week’s time.
Frustration for Atletico
Also managing to pick up their own much-needed victory last weekend thanks to a 3-0 win away at Osasuna, all signs were pointing towards an impressive European scalp for the defending Spanish champions.
However, while the impressive Joao Felix might have opened the scoring with a wonderful header just minutes after the opening whistle, Atletico Madrid will be ruing a missed opportunity on Wednesday night.
Dominating the first-half and backed by a vocal home support in the Wanda Metropolitano, Head Coach Diego Simeone saw his side go within inches of doubling their lead as left-back Renan Lodi saw his scuffed effort rebound off the woodwork.
Nevertheless, despite being asked few questions by what was a largely sluggish Manchester United side here, Simeone was left furious to have seen his side blow a golden chance in front of their own supporters.
With the returning Antoine Griezmann coming off the bench and also seeing his last-gasp curling effort come back off David de Gea’s crossbar, Wednesday’s hosts will know that they face a stern test at Old Trafford for their second-leg meeting on March 15th.
Hoping to welcome back midfield star Koke ahead of a hectic schedule, Simeone’s side doesn’t have time to feel sorry for themselves when they host Celta Vigo in another must-win showdown this weekend.
Two sides showing defensive issues
While Rangnick might have been overjoyed to have seen Elanga bag what could turn out to be a crucial strike here, there is no doubt that the new Manchester United boss will have a headache over his side’s extended issues at the back.
With both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane having a troubled night at the Wanda Metropolitano, the Premier League heavyweights are now enduring their worst Champions League defensive run in almost a decade.
Watching both Griezmann and Lodi rattle the woodwork on either side of the half-time break, Wednesday’s guests have managed to record just a single Champions League clean sheet in any of their previous 11 appearances.
On the flip side, while Atletico might have put in a largely impressive display on home soil here, Simeone’s men have only continued to gain a reputation for their defensive issues throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
All but relinquishing their La Liga crown to their bitter local rivals after a nightmare domestic run, Los Colchoneros have remarkably already shipped more goals this season than they conceded during the whole of last year’s run.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Savic, Giménez, Mandava, Lodi, Herrera, Kondogbia, Llorente, Vrsaljko, Correa, Sequeira
Subs: Lemar, Griezmann
Manchester United: De Gea, Lindelöf, Varane, Maguire, Shaw, Pogba, Fred, Fernandes, Rashford, Sancho, Ronaldo
Subs: Elanga, Wan-Bissaka, Telles, Matic, Lingard
Goals: Atletico Madrid: Felix 7′ – Manchester United: Elanga 80′
Yellow Cards: Giménez, Mandava, Llorente, Herrera – Manchester United: Lindelöf, Shaw, Telles, Fred, Rashford
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan
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