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Stones praises City after Atletico win



MADRID:

Manchester City defender John Stones praised his team’s “incredible” composure in a fiery goalless draw away to Atletico Madrid as Pep Guardiola’s side set up a blockbuster Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal of the tie in the first leg in Manchester and City held on despite a bad-tempered finish to the return leg in the Spanish capital.

Atletico centre-back Felipe was sent off late on for a wild swipe at Phil Foden, an incident that triggered a mass brawl in the corner of the pitch and resulted in more than 12 minutes of stoppage time being played.

Video then showed clashes continuing in the tunnel with police called to help separate the two squads.

“We knew it was not an easy place to come, it is a hostile environment, it was a difficult night all round and how we defended and controlled ourselves over the two legs was incredible,” Stones told BT Sport.

“We know that they sometimes try and make things happen like that and we dealt with it really well,” Stones told BT Sport.

“It is not nice to talk about and I don’t want to dwell on it because over the two legs we played incredible against such an experienced side in what they do.”

He added: “We kept our tempers and it is easy to get drawn into stuff like that.”

Guardiola opted not to get involved in a war of words with his Spanish opponents.

When asked if he thought Atletico had gone too far, and targeted Foden in particular, he said: “Nothing to say. I don’t know I cannot talk about what other people do, I don’t know.”

Guardiola said City would have to raise their game as the club go in search of a first European title.

“It is the champion of Spain and they played with energy and in second half were better than us and we were lucky we didn’t concede,” he said.

“In the first half we had chances, overall we are in the semi-finals – it is well deserved.”

‘Players only human,’ says Klopp

Jurgen Klopp admitted he was relieved to see Liverpool book a Champions League semi-final showdown against Villarreal as the quadruple chasers survived a late collapse in Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against Benfica.

Klopp’s side already had one foot in the last four after winning 3-1 in the quarter-final first leg in Lisbon.

They were on cruise control for long spells in the second leg at Anfield, but had to hold their nerve before advancing 6-4 on aggregate after an uncharacteristic meltdown in the closing stages.

Ibrahima Konate put Liverpool ahead before Goncalo Ramos equalised late in the first half.

When Roberto Firmino netted twice after the interval, the tie looked all but over.

However, Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Nunez struck for Benfica to briefly give the visitors hope of an astonishing escape act, before Liverpool finally restored order.

“When I’m not over the moon about qualifying for the Champions League semi-final, something is really wrong and maybe I should quit!” Klopp said.

“The situation was the defence had never played together and it was about details, staying 100 percent concentrated.

“We were 6-2 up on aggregate. The players are human beings, they were like ‘Ok job done’. But Benfica kept fighting and I respect that.

“It was not exactly what we wanted but it is absolutely not important. We are through and that’s all that matters. I’m really happy.”

The Reds will face Spanish side Villarreal in the semi-finals as they look to reach their 10th Champions League final and claim a seventh title in the competition.

Despite Villarreal’s impressive wins over Bayern Munich and Juventus in the last two rounds, Liverpool will be firm favourites to make a third Champions League final in the last five seasons.

“To beat Juventus and Bayern Munich, they deserve to be in the Champions League semi-finals. Unai Emery is the king of the cups, it is unbelievable what he is doing. But give me a bit of time to prepare it properly,” Klopp said.

Liverpool sit one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City after Sunday’s draw against their title rivals.

In the midst of a run that will define Liverpool’s season, Klopp was able to keep Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk fresh as he started with his stars on the bench ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.

Konate had headed the opener in the first leg at Benfica and Liverpool’s towering centre-back tormented the Portuguese side with his aerial prowess again in the 21st minute.

Kostas Tsimikas whipped an outswinging corner towards Konate and he climbed above three Benfica players to head into the far corner from 10 yards



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