Anthony Elanga came off the bench to earn Manchester United a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid.
Joao Felix’s early header seemed set to prove decisive at Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, with United’s attack having looked largely blunt throughout.
Indeed, United failed to have a touch in the opposition box in the first half of a Champions League game for the first time since at least 2005-06, but Elanga took his chance when it came.
The youngster made Atleti pay for Marcos Llorente’s poor miss before half-time.
And United feel they have the edge heading into the second leg on March 15.
After three minutes in Atleti’s much-needed win over Osasuna on Saturday, Joao Felix opened the scoring.
And it took the youngster just seven minutes this time around.
Renan Lodi dropped an inviting cross between Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, with Joao Felix directing a superb header off David de Gea’s right-hand post.
Testament to Atleti’s dominance, it took until the 37th minute for Cristiano Ronaldo to get a sight of the goal.
And he dragged well wide from outside the area.
Atleti should have been 2-0 up at half-time, only for Llorente to head against the crossbar from close range after a well-worked free-kick had caught United out.
Llorente sliced wide as Atleti picked up where they left off before Atleti tried an audacious bicycle kick before making way for Antoine Griezmann.
A woeful Ronaldo free-kick seemed to have capped a frustrating night for United, but Elanga had other ideas.
What does it mean? United have the edge despite largely meek display
After Atleti’s success in the last 16 of the 1991-92 European Winners’ Cup, this is the second competitive tie between these teams.
However, Los Colchoneros had lost their previous four Champions League matches against English teams.
United had more of the ball (63 per cent) but was comfortably outshot 13-7.
That being said, despite a largely lacklustre performance, they stayed in the game and had a chance to win it late on when Jesse Lingard forced Oblak into action (the only save either goalkeeper made).
Joao Felix outshines Ronaldo.
In the Portuguese number sevens battle, there is no doubt that it was Joao Felix who came out on top.
While Ronaldo, who had scored 25 goals in 35 previous matches against Atleti, managed just two efforts.
Getting neither on target, his compatriot was superb, particularly in the first half.
Joao Felix’s goal was his seventh in the Champions League, though the first with his head.
The 22-year-old might not yet have lived up to his potential at Atleti.
But based on this display, there is every chance he can reach the very top.
Elanga covers United’s attacking flaws.
United looked all at sea at the back at times in Madrid, though equally as concerning was their lack of attacking urgency or inventiveness until Elanga came on.
Rashford, who was subbed off for the goalscorer, only had one attempt.
And he did not create a chance during his time on the pitch.
His run in behind Atleti’s defence panicked Reinildo into a mistake, and Elanga kept his cool to slide a finish into the left-hand corner after seeing Oblak had given him plenty of the goal to aim at.
Atleti is home to Celta Vigo in their next LaLiga outing on Saturday.
Meanwhile, United welcomes Watford to Old Trafford in the Premier League.
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