Champions League wrap: Manchester United battle Atleti to draw; Benfica, Ajax a thriller

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Manchester United secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg on Wednesday, while Benfica and Ajax went back and forth in a 2-2 thriller.

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Atletico Madrid 1-1 Manchester United – recap & highlights

Joao Felix gave the hosts the lead in the 7th minute, extending to full-stretch at the near post to get any part of his head on Angel Correa’s sensational cross from deep.

While the possession battle favored them nearly 2 to 1, Manchester United created very little as Atletico Madrid allowed just one completed pass inside their penalty area. They did, however, make the absolute most of their first shot on target, in the 80th minute, when Bruno Fernandes (6 assists in 7 Champions League games this season) slipped Anthony Elanga in behind for a one-on-one chance against Jan Oblak.

1-1 flatters Manchester United, but that’s knockout football

Go back through the history of the UEFA Champions, and try to find a side that was crowned champions of Europe without turning at least one bad performance into an undeservedly positive result. A word to the wise: You’ll find the task nearly impossible, because doing so is a necessary part of winning in the knockout rounds.

The Red Devils had just two shots on target (both in the last 10 minutes) and were saved by the crossbar late on, but they allowed just one shot on target themselves, and even that required an incredible effort and touch from Joao Felix. For as lopsided as certain parts of the game were, Atleti were equally underwhelming in many areas, setting up a truly exciting second leg at Old Trafford on March 15.

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Man United goal-scorer Anthony Elanga: “I have dreamt of moments like this”

“I think it was my first touch as well. I have dreamt of moments like this, scoring in the Champions League against top European teams like Atletico Madrid — a dream come true. It is only first half, we have to be ready for the second half at Old Trafford.

“I told you how calm and cool I am, and whenever I am given a opportunity, I want to repay the manager and give 150% percent every time I step onto the pitch. I just do what I can do, I want to be the best player on the pitch and I appreciate the boss.

“He (Ralf Rangnick) said to me to make the defenders scared and run in behind. When I get the opportunity, I took it. I wanted a good result for the fans because they came a long way.”


Benfica 2-2 Ajax – recap & highlights

Ajax jumped out to an early lead courtesy of Dusan Tadic, but Sebastien Haller pulled Benfica level with an own goal in the 26th minute. Haller restored Ajax’s lead by scoring at the correct end just three minutes later, but Roman Yaremchuk nodded home a bouncing rebound in the 72nd minute to give the home side a bit of hope ahead of the second leg.