Diego Simeone aimed a thinly veiled dig at Pep Guardiola on a feisty and bad-tempered night at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, where Manchester City’s advance to the semi-finals was overshadowed by a brawl on the pitch and in the tunnel.
Simeone was asked after the match if he felt Guardiola had disrespected him during the quarter-final, which City won 1-0 on aggregate after a goalless draw in the second leg.
“Often people who have a great vocabulary, who are very intelligent, they can praise you with contempt. But those of us with a little less vocabulary, we are not stupid either,” Simeone said.
After the first leg Guardiola said “in pre-history, today and in a hundred thousand years, attacking a 5-5 (formation) is very difficult”, which was taken by some to be a criticism of Atletico’s defensive style.
Guardiola insisted he had only ever praised Atletico’s resilience. “He can play how he wants, all I have said is it is very hard to play against them,” said Guardiola.
“I have always respected this institution and this team, I would never dare to attack this team. When a team knows how to defend like no other team in the world, it’s difficult.”
Neither Simeone nor Guardiola wanted to comment on the behaviour of their players during the match or in the tunnel.
“I didn’t see it,” said Simeone. “I was on the pitch applauding the fans. By the time I went inside there was nobody there.”
Police entered the tunnel after full-time as the scuffles continued between the players, with video footage showing Atletico’s Stefan Savic shouting at City’s Jack Grealish while an incensed Sime Vrsaljko had to be held back from confronting Kyle Walker. At one point, Vrsaljko appears to spit across the tunnel in Walker’s direction.
UEFA are yet to confirm whether they will open an investigation into the incidents.
Atletico’s Felipe was sent off towards the end of the match after taking a swipe at Phil Foden, the Manchester City midfielder who was already wearing a bandage around his head from an earlier Felipe challenge.
The tackle, and Foden’s fall, sparked a brawl in the corner of the pitch, as players, substitutes and staff rushed in. The scrap hampered Atletico’s momentum as they pushed for the goal they needed to take the tie to extra-time.
Atletico felt City’s players were wasting time.
“I don’t know if it was us wasting time or them getting involved in stupid fights,” said City defender Aymeric Laporte. “We know what they’re like and what they’ve done before.”
Atletico Madrid captain, Koke, said: “Lots of the time we get criticised for these things. So let’s see what people think of this today. You’ve seen it so make your own minds up.”
Manchester City will now face Real Madrid, with Liverpool up against Villarreal in the other semi-final.