Atlético Madrid knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League and moved into the quarter-finals after a 41st minute header from Brazilian Renan Lodi gave them a 1-0 (2-1 aggregate) win at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
- A first-half goal to Renan Lodi and some characteristic defending ensured Atlético qualified for the quarter-final after defeating United 2-1 on aggregate
- United is left to focus on the Premier League, where they face a battle to make the top four
- Benfica edged past Dutch giants Ajax 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 away win
It was a typical display of the kind of gritty defending and swift counter-attacking for which Diego Simeone’s Atlético side has been known while United, for all their pressure, was unable to create enough quality opportunities to score.
United is left to focus on a Premier League campaign in which it faces a real battle to make the top four and earn a place in next year’s Champions League.
The night began brightly for United with Anthony Elanga forcing a fine reflex save out of Jan Oblak with a near-post flick from a Bruno Fernandes cross.
United’s Spanish keeper David de Gea then produced an outstanding diving save to push wide a long-range effort from Rodrigo De Paul.
João Félix had the ball in the net not long afterwards, tapping in a cross from Marco Llorente, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
There was no reprieve though for United, with a trademark counter-attack opening the scoring for Atlético, when a clever flick from Félix found Antoine Griezmann, whose cross was nodded in at the back post by Lodi.
United argued that the move had followed a foul on Elanga deep in Atlético’s half but referee Slavko Vincic waved away the protests.
United poured forward after the break in search of an equaliser but there was little design or craft to their attacks and the nearest they came to an equaliser was a fine header from Raphael Varane that had Oblak at full stretch.
It was scrappy and at times cynical from Atlético in the latter stages but their disciplined defence held firm for the victory that sends them into the last eight.
Benfica shock Ajax to qualify for quarter-final
Striker Darwin Nunez headed home a 77th-minute winner as Benfica grabbed a shock 1-0 victory away at Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday to secure a surprise Champions League quarter-final place.
The Uruguayan striker rose above the Ajax defence to score from a free kick in a rare attack for the Portuguese club, who put up a stout defensive performance at the Johan Cruyff Arena to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
Benfica’s veteran centre back pair of Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi were a defensive wall that Ajax was unable to break down, despite dominating possession and constantly attacking the visitors’ goal.
The Dutch club had won all its group games and, after a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the last-16 tie in Lisbon last month, was expected to ease through to the last eight with home advantage in the second leg.
But hopes of an extended run in the Champions League were brought to a sudden end by Benfica, which had a poor domestic season, floundering 12 points from the summit of the Portuguese league.
Ajax peppered the Benfica goal in the first half at the end of swift build-ups and multiple crosses into the penalty area, but got few of their efforts on target.
Teenager Ryan Gravenberch created an opening for himself with a strong run but fired his 36th-minute shot just over the crossbar in the best effort of the opening period.
Ajax kept up the pressure in the second half with Brazilian winger Antony having two good chances. He put a header wide and was then foiled by a late Vertonghen tackle.
Benfica’s one attempt on target came after Ajax defender Edson Alvarez conceded a soft free kick.
Nunez rose high above Jurrien Timber and the on-rushing goalkeeper Andre Onana from the set piece to stun the home crowd.
Ajax could have equalised deep in stoppage time but Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos pulled off a superb stop to deny Brian Brobbey, although the Ajax substitute was then ruled offside.