After a tense 70 minutes, City finally broke through Atletico’s tenacious defence, aided by Phil Foden‘s vision. Foden slid in a beautiful through-ball and De Bruyne raced through to fire home a low shot from a close angle just 79 seconds after coming off the bench.
“We knew it was going to be pretty tough to create some opportunities,” De Bruyne said. “The first half was tight, but we didn’t give anything away and in the second half had a couple of chances. It was good that we took one.”
In the second quarterfinal first leg of the night, Liverpool defeated Benfica 3-1.
Both Manchester City and Atletico Madrid have reached the Champions League final but have never won the cup.
As coach Diego Simeone had promised, Atletico played its typical cagey game.
The first half was played at a leisurely pace, with City dominating the most of the ball but unable to create chances despite having all of its outfield players in the final third at points.
De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo both had shots deflected wide, and Aymeric Laporte’s header was off target.
Ilkay Gundogan shot wide, and Rodri had a long-range effort stopped before De Bruyne’s penalty petition was denied, and John Stones also missed.
“It is very hard,” De Bruyne said. “They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, it is very hard to find the spaces.”
It wasn’t until the second half that the hosts attempted to speed up their performance. That did loosen up the game significantly, and Atletico almost capitalised with a number of deep bursts. Antoine Griezmann squandered one chance with a terrible pass, while Marcos Llorente chipped a feeble shot at goalkeeper Ederson from another.
City, on the other hand, began to threaten more, with Gundogan’s effort deflected wide and Laporte coming close with a header.
City requested another penalty for Reinildo’s push on Sterling, but it was denied. Sterling’s role ended there when manager Pep Guardiola substituted him in the game-changing move.
De Bruyne was set up for the goal by Foden, who came in in place of Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus.
Following a clever move to the byline, Foden generated another chance for De Bruyne, but this time Atletico had enough people back to block.
“The way we played was good because we didn’t give anything away,” De Bruyne said. “You need to be calm and patient, try to find the balls and the spaces because they were compact.”