There's nothing better than a well executed slow burn.
The thing about this storytelling style is the way those stories sit with you long after the fact. They begin with an emphasis on scene and setting, like a packed Wanda Metropolitano on a spring night in Madrid. They establish a clear narrative and well crafted characters, like Pep Guardiola and Manchester City's attack vs. Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid's defense, and then they meander for a while, exploring some dialogue and minor subplots, like Phil Foden's head, before, in the final 10 minutes, shit hits the fan and all hell breaks loose.
No team does slow burns quite like Atlético, because they almost always end in bench-clearing brawls and red cards. That is, after all, exactly how Atléti managed to advance to the knockout rounds back in December.
Atlético's first-half game plan against City on Wednesday was clear: stay just about as defensively rigid as the first leg to avoid losing the tie in the opening 45, but open up a little more this time around in an attempt to create one chance or mistake. The defensive half of the plan worked, but City's immaculate control kept the Colchoneros at arm's length.
Simeone only had 45 minutes left to work with, but that's still an eternity when going against City. The slow burn would have to continue for at least 20 or 30 more minutes, with perhaps a slight turning of the screw from Atlético, but the time would eventually come when Simeone would be forced to go hammer and tongs.
The heat was turned up in the 70th with a triple-sub that introduced Rodrigo De Paul, Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco, and then the fuse was lit in the 80th with forwards Luis Suárez and Matheus Cunha introduced simultaneously.
After rolling with a 5-5-0 in Manchester, we got a 4-2-4 from Atléti for the final 10 minutes at the Wanda. In a flurry Atlético's shot count was suddenly at 11, and if it wasn't for a great John Stones block, Simeone's masterplan would've had vindication.
¡Qué gran jugada había armado el Atlético de Madrid!Se trata de no dejar que la vida empañe tu brillo y encontrar alegría: ¡Se acerca el empate en el global!
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) April 13, 2022
Then comes the inevitable brawl and red cards — so entirely predictable in its execution but never any less enjoyable — but it worked against the home side this time since only Atlético's Felipe was sent off, leaving the team down a man for the nine minutes of added time.
Felipe's challenge looked fair and he didn't appear to do anything malicious with his follow-through, so it seemed like a harsh second yellow for the defender (although he was toying with cards all match).
Stefan Savić, on the other hand, was very clearly booked for starting, and starring in, the melee.
¡Se armó la bronca!Felipe le da un patadón a Foden y Savic también se le va encima. ‼️
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) April 13, 2022
Stefan Savić wanted to know if Jack Grealish’s hair is Gucci. pic.twitter.com/5ZHfHS0Woc— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 13, 2022
In the 10th minute of stoppage time, Simeone had the entire Wanda following his example and applauding City's third or fourth feigned injury in succession. Suddenly the Atléti manager was on the pitch yelling instructions at Savić, earning the manager a booking, and then — IN THE 12TH MINUTE OF STOPPAGE TIME — Correa had a one-on-one with Ederson that he wasted. Everything really worked exactly as Simeone planned, but the finish never arrived.
Atléti finally made a connection after the final whistle.
— unfortunate football moments (@unluckyfootie) April 13, 2022
Savić vs. Grealish continued after the match.
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) April 13, 2022
Any team that lives through that deserves massive plaudits, and Guardiola's Man City now advances to play Real Madrid in the semifinals.