Atletico Madrid could face action from UEFA following the series of flashpoints that marred their Champions League game against Manchester City on Wednesday night.
The Spanish champions exited the competition after a 0-0 draw in the Wanda Metropolitano saw Man City claim a 1-0 aggregate victory, but clashes on the pitch and in the tunnel after the game between the two groups of players eclipsed the debates.
The Atletico players didn’t hold back in their treatment of their Man City counterparts, and Phil Foden had to be treated for a head injury after a tough challenge from Felipe early in the first half.
The Atletico defender then received a second yellow card for kicking the same player, before his team-mate Stefan Savic – formerly of Man City – sparked a scrum when he tried to manhandle Foden as he was injured.
Savic then headbutted Raheem Sterling and pulled Jack Grealish’s hair in the same incident, but officials on the pitch and VAR opted not to send the centre-back away from Atletico.
The ugly scenes continued after the final whistle, with footage showing tempers continuing to crumble as the players made their way down the tunnel. Sime Vrsaljko, who was an unused substitute for Atletico, was seen throwing a bottle in Aymeric Laporte’s direction as police reportedly rushed to calm the scene.
While referee Daniel Siebert issued just one red card overnight, more penalties could follow, with UEFA saying they will wait to receive reports from the referee and match delegate before to decide whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
European football’s governing body could appoint an ethics and disciplinary inspector to fully investigate what happened.
‘A lot for UEFA to consider after a nasty scrum’
Ben Ransom, Sky Sports News reporter in Madrid
“In the preparation, we focused a lot on styles. Guardiola before the game was talking about the aggression he expected, but I think he expected it to be a little less than what we saw last night because it overflowed.
“There were a number of flashpoints. The first time we saw it getting really nasty on the pitch was that scrum that broke out after that tackle on Phil Foden, Felipe was eventually sent off Ex-Man City player Stefan Savic got involved There were shots of him pulling Jack Grealish’s hair, he sticks his head in another player.
“I don’t remember seeing a match where there were so many players involved in such a scrum, and it was physical. It was quite unpleasant and it went on for so long.
“Normally everything dies down quite quickly and often there are a lot more peacemakers – that wasn’t the case last night. I think it got to the point where Atletico’s frustration really boiled over.
“It all started again in the tunnel. From my point of view, the players were being guided there and the security was doing their best to prevent them from getting things thrown at them by the Atletico Madrid fans.
“And then, just as they disappeared from view, you could see them congregating again, the police rushed to separate them in the tunnel. So a lot to think about for UEFA.”
Pep: Atletico can play as they want | Simeone: Some praise us with disdain
Pep Guardiola refused to criticize Atletico’s approach after the game and instead insisted he was still positive about Simeone’s tactics and that the former Argentina midfielder could build his squad from the way he wanted.
Responding to Spanish reporters, the Man City manager said: “It was you who said Simeone’s cycle was always the same, it was you, three or four months ago. That’s what you said when they weren’t winning games. That was you, don’t put it on me.
“I have always said good things about the club and the team. El Cholo [Diego Simeone] can play as he wants, nothing else.”
Speaking after his side’s exit, Simeone said he felt people praised Atletico’s style with “disdain”.
“I have no reason to say whether someone is saying good things or bad things,” Simeone said. “Often those with an extensive vocabulary are very intelligent and may dismiss you with disdain.
“But those of us who might not have that much vocabulary, we’re not stupid either.”
Simeone also denied witnessing any of the scenes in the tunnel, saying: “I didn’t see it. I stayed on the pitch to applaud the fans and say hello to everyone on the pitch. So by the time I got on everyone was gone.”
Koke takes aim at City’s ‘waste of time’ | Stones proud of City team-mates
Atletico captain Koke defended his side’s antics during the Man City visit and instead denounced what he saw as a waste of time by Guardiola’s side.
“The game takes you to this madness when you see you have chances and they fall to the ground and waste time,” Koke said.
“Many times we are criticized for this situation, but today it was them. Let’s see what people think. Today we saw it, we are Atletico de Madrid and I am proud of this team.
“I’m proud of my teammates for the effort. I can’t fault the team. I’m proud of everyone and the fans, who lost, stayed to cheer us on after the game. is Atlético.”
Man City defender John Stones admitted the mass brawl at the end of the game was “not nice to talk about”, but praised his side’s reaction to Atleti’s actions.
“We know they sometimes try to make things happen like that and I think we handled it very well,” Stones said. “It’s not good to talk about that. I don’t want to dwell on it because over two rounds we played unbelievably against a team so experienced in what they do.
“I’m so proud of the guys how well we control our tempers. It’s so easy to get sucked into stuff like that. So happy to be done and have a great night.
“We really knew it wasn’t an easy place to come. It’s my first time here and it’s a hostile environment. It was a tough night but the way we defended ourselves and how we controlled ourselves was amazing.”
Stones also addressed suggestions that Foden, who was the victim of Felipe’s two yellow card fouls, was targeted by Atleti players.
“[They started] first doors,” Stones said of Atleti’s treatment of Foden. “Phil was such a threat in both games, especially when he first came on, an instant impact.
“Then in that game he drove us down the field and gained us yards. He was exceptional. He feels it after the game now.”
How the newspapers reacted to Atletico’s collapse
On a night when Atletico Madrid slipped out of the Champions League after a bad-tempered draw, the British media slammed Simeone’s side for their actions.
DailyMirror Sportswriter Mike Walters tweeted Wednesday night: “Imagine backing a team led by Simeone, including Felipe and Savic, and actually wanting them to win. What a bunch of animals.”
Meanwhile, Daily mail Football writer Jack Gaughan, who was at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, described Atleti’s actions as “truly shameful” while Martin Samuel of the same newspaper called the Spanish side “bad losers”.
TalkSPORT host Adrian Durham added on Twitter: “Simeone’s Atleti are absolutely lawless. Glad they’re out,” while writer Paul Hayward added: “All that bluster and rumble and Atletico couldn’t score in both legs. Savic and Felipe: awful.”
However, there was a starkly different reaction to Atletico’s performance in the Spanish newspapers on Thursday morning, where Simeone’s side were praised for their display.
Brand went with the headline ‘priceless heart’, adding ‘Atletico tried all the way against a City team that played for nothing’, while AS wrote “a great Atletico were one step away from forcing extra time against a shrunken City”.
In their game player notes, Brand also said “the world needs a leader like Savic”.