Atletico Madrid captain Koke has bizarrely defended his side’s unsavoury behaviour during their Champions League clash against Manchester City, pinning the blame on their opponents for the tunnel fight which followed.
City are through to the Champions League semi-finals for a second successive season after standing up to a brutal night in Spain. Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Diego Simeone’s side threw everything at City, almost literally, in a bid to claw their way back. However, Pep Guardiola’s men stood tall to secure a 0-0 draw and advance to face Real Madrid for a place in the final.
The closing scenes at the Wanda Metropolitano were marred by several ugly scences, with 11 minutes of stoppage time seeing a flurry of bookings.
Indeed, a total of cards 11 cards were branded out, two of which went to Felipe and one to coach Simeone as tensions boiled over.
Former City defender Stefan Savic appeared to be at the heart of it too. He grabbed Phil Foden by the shirt, sparking a melee involving all 22 players, as well as players off the bench.
Savic then pulled Jack Grealish’s hair and, despite several other incidents, somehow managed to avoid a red card himself.
The tensions then spilled over into the tunnel with more unsavoury scenes involving Grealish and Savic. Indeed, police were forced to intervene and there are also allegations that Kyle Walker was spat at.
After the match, Guardiola responded to the incidents with a typically cool head.
Koke not backing down
However, an unrepentant Koke insists his team has nothing to be sorry for. And he claims it is City’s players who the finger of blame should be pointed at. Accusing City of ‘taking to madness’ and ‘gamesmanship’ the Atleti captain simply refused to back down.
“I don’t know what happened because I was on the bench and he caught me in the other corner. Football situations,” he said of the red card.
“The game takes you to that madness when you see that you have chances and they throw themselves on the ground and lose time. They criticise us for that many times and let’s see what people think of it today.”
It all kicked off at the Wanda Metropolitano!
Felipe lashed out at Phil Foden and was eventually sent off, while Stefan Savić continued to lose the plot!
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 13, 2022
Asked directly if he felt City were time-wasting, Koke gave a strong response.
“Today it has been seen. Many times we are Atletico who are criticised and today we are proud of what the team has done.
“We wanted to be in the semis, we are hurt, but proud of this Champions League. We will never stop believing. Now to focus on LaLiga to get into the Champions League [again].”
John Stones reflects on Atletico actions and tunnel fight
City defender John Stones was one of a handful of Manchester City stars who managed to avoid a caution. Nonetheless, the defender put in a solid display and stood tall to all Atletico threw at him.
Asked what it was like to be on the end of Atletico’s antics, the City star did not mince his words.
“We know they sometimes try and make things happen like that. I thought we dealt with it really well,” he told BT Sport.
“It’s not nice to talk about that. I don’t want to dwell on it too much because over two legs I think we played incredible against such an experienced team in what they do, in such a low block.
“I’m so proud of the lads today on how we kept control and our tempers. It’s so easy to get drawn in, so happy to be through, great night.”
The England defender added: “We knew it’s not easy, it’s my first time. Hostile environment. From talking to boys who have been here before and who know their players and how they play.
“It was a difficult night all round. I think how we defended, how we controlled ourselves, over two legs was incredible.”
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