I’ve heard people say on many occasions that Jack Grealish has what we call a punchable face. Ángel Correa went a different route and sent the Champions League ball into the Man City winger’s face.
Late in Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday, Grealish fell to the pitch following a challenge from Sime Vrsaljko near the midfield sideline. Correa followed it up by kicking the ball at Grealish, hitting the player in the chin.
Correa was shown a yellow card for his antics, and Pep Guardiola had to shove his player back to prevent Grealish from retaliating.
Initially, it seemed as though Correa was fortunate to escape without being given a red card. A closer look shows his kick glanced off Grealish’s leg before caroming into his face, probably lessening the punishment meted out to the Argentine.
The Grealish-Correa incident highlighted a chippy ending to the match, which also included Matheus Cunha making a meal out of a little bump from Aymeric Laporte. Four of the five yellow cards shown Tuesday night came after Grealish was hit in the face.
The one moment that matters most moving forward came in the 70th minute when Kevin de Bruyne finally broke down a determined Atleti defense.
Diego Simeone had his visitors set up with five defenders, three midfielders and two forwards who were basically additional midfielders. The bus was quite firmly parked with Atlético Madrid players denying all routes to goal for Manchester City. Despite holding 70 percent possession, the home side managed just two shots on target, one in each half.
Fortunately for Guardiola, one of those shots went into the back of the net. Just a couple of minutes after Guardiola swapped Ilkay Gündogan, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez for Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden, de Bruyne latched onto a through ball from Foden to score the game’s only goal.
Clinical from Kevin De Bruyne on his 50th #UCL appearance.The ball from Phil Foden, though. pic.twitter.com/647s2zqN4U
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 5, 2022
Man City has unreal depth with the ability to bring such strong subs off the bench. Liverpool had a similar occurrence closing out its 3-1 win over Benfica on Tuesday, bringing on Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.
In the end, the result felt fair. Atleti defended heroically but offered little going forward, failing to record a single shot the entire match. Simeone might be just fine heading back to Madrid trailing just 1-0 on aggregate.
MCI 1-0 ATM (FT) - El Atlético de Madrid superó 2 de 2 eliminatorias de UEFA Champions League #UCL tras perder el partido de ida fuera de casa por 1 gol de diferencia: eliminó (por penaltis) al Bayer Leverkusen en 2015 y al Barcelona en 2016 (2-0 en Madrid).— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) April 5, 2022
At the same time, City has the lead and can wait for Atlético to attack it in the second leg. It’s all to play for, and we can’t wait to see who tries to break Grealish’s face next.