LISBON (AFP) – Leipzig stunned Atletico Madrid 2-1 early yesterday to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time as Tyler Adams’ 88th-minute winner earned them a showdown with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
Atletico looked to have secured extra-time at the Estadio Jose Alvalade when Joao Felix won and then scored a penalty to cancel out Dani Olmo’s headed opener early in the second half.
But Adams proved an unlikely hero for Leipzig, coming off the bench to snatch victory in Lisbon after his fired effort took a cruel deflection of Stefan Savic and flew in.
The win marks a historic night for Leipzig, who were only formed 11 years ago and played their first ever season in Germany’s top flight in 2016.
Progress to the last four also puts another feather in the cap of their coach Julian Nagelsmann, whose stock will rise even further after ousting Diego Simeone, one of this competition’s most gnarly tacticians.
“I’m perhaps one of the happiest coaches in the world,” Nagelsmann said.
“We were the better team, the result is totally OK. The second goal is a bit lucky but we found the space behind the defensive line. I think we were the better team today.”
Their challenge is now to defeat PSG on Tuesday, the French champions who have only played three matches in almost half a year and needed a late escape to see off Atalanta on Tuesday.
“It’s normal that when you get to the next round, you want more,” Nagelsmann said.
“Tonight we’re happy. Tomorrow we’ll start looking at Paris. That will be another difficult game but we’ll have a plan.”
For Atletico and Simeone, this was an opportunity spurned to go far in Europe at the end of what has been a disappointing season in Spain.
After Real Madrid’s loss against Manchester City, only Barcelona are left to fly the Spanish flag in this tournament and they face a formidable challenge against Bayern Munich.
Questions will be asked again about the future of Simeone, who has struggled to recreate an Atletico side capable of challenging for major honours.
His notoriously defensive approach, which saw off holders Liverpool in the last 16, looked outdated against the slick, quick and free-flowing style of their opponents.
“It hurts a lot,” said Atletico’s Saul Niguez. “They had superiority in many areas on the pitch, inside, outside. Many times we were not even close to stopping them.”