Manchester City were not the smooth operators they so often are but this slender victory may prove invaluable when the tie is decided in next week’s return at Wanda Metropolitano. For this they can thank Phil Foden and his schemer’s eye, the youngster threading the decisive pass that released Kevin De Bruyne who, on his 50th Champions League appearance for City, made no mistake for a winner that was his 11th goal in the competition for the club.
It means Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Spain content yet wary as Atlético Madrid are the definition of a streetwise outfit who know when to punish, though João Félix, Antoine Griezmann and Marcos Llorente should all rue missed opportunities last night.
So it was that Guardiola’s selection was eagerly awaited. Through this prism the discarding of Foden – who had started five of City’s Champions League eight matches – caught the eye.
Simeone, who rated the task tougher than knocking out Manchester United in the previous round, could be pleased at his team firing a first salvo. Félix twirled near.
João Cancelo had been instructed to drift inside and it was in this zone he drew a foul from Geoffrey Kondogbia. Moments later the Portuguese let go a 25-yard shot that was blocked and had Atlético scrambling in the area before Felipe cleared.
Any possession Atlético had was being thrown away, much to the chagrin of Simeone, conscious the commodity was precious. This was underlined when, after ceding the ball, a Cancelo cross for Ilkay Gündogan, then a De Bruyne effort, threatened Jan Oblak’s goal.