Lisbon, 13 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – RB Leipzig overcame the departure of top scorer Timo Werner when they stunned Atletico Madrid 2-1 on Thursday to set up a Champions League semi-final with Paris Saint-Germain.
Dani Olmo headed Leipzig ahead in the 51st minute, youngster Joao Felix levelled for Atletico 20 minutes later from a penalty, but a deflected shot from American substitute Tyler Adams won it for Leipzig in the 88th.
Founded only in 2009 in the lower leagues, in the Bundesliga since 2016, and playing in the elite event for only the second time, Leipzig dominated possession at Estadio Jose Alvalade to crate a second surprise after ousting 2019 runners-up Tottenham Hotspur in the previous round.
Three-time finalists Atletico were a far cry from their last 16 triumph over title holders Liverpool, and the defeat ended a run of 18 games without defeat in all events.
“I am very proud of the team. The lads did an outstanding job. We created more chances than other teams against Atletico,” said 33-year-old Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann after outfoxing veteran counterpart Diego Simeone.
“Of course we want to reach the final, that is absolutely clear.”
Forward Yussuf Poulsen said: “It is an extraordinary story, in seven years from the third division into the Champions League semi-finals. I am happy to be part of such a historic day.”
Simeone said: “We became more active when Felix came on and thought we could strike again after the penalty. But they were more active on the pitch. We did our best as well. We are disappointed because we wanted to achieve more.”
On Tuesday, Leipzig play PSG, with their German coach Thomas Tuchel, who won the first quarter-final 2-1 against Atalanta. Both are bidding for a first-ever place in the final set for August 23.
The other quarter-finals at the mini-tournament behind closed doors in Lisbon are Bayern Munich v Barcelona on Friday and Manchester City v Olympique Lyon.
Poulsen took the place of Werner who departed for Chelsea after the end of the German season while there was no place for Felix in Simeone’s starting line-up in a return of the youngster to his home country.
Leipzig got the first chance when Marcel Halstenberg volleyed over the bar in the fourth minute after Atletico failed to clear decisively.
On the other end the lively Yannick Carrasco forced Peter Gulacsi to a first save in the 13th from a tight angle, after a determined run from Renan Lodi down the left.
But chances were then sparse although the affair remained fierce and saw a lengthy interruption after a nasty aerial clash involving Stefan Savic and Marcel Halstenberg.
Leipzig dominated possession but failed to break down Atletico’s defence with a final pass, and defender Dayot Upamecano, later named man of the match, headed into the arms of Jan Oblak on the stroke of half-time.
Six minutes after the break the Germans found the opening, patiently passing the ball around the Atletico penalty area from left to right, and Sabitzer’s cross from the right then met by Olmo’s glancing header into the far right corner.
Felix came on in the 58th and quickly made an impact. He was fouled by Lukas Klostermann and calmly converted the penalty himself in the 71st into the bottom left corner past the diving Gulacsi.
The goal gave Atletico confidence but it was Leipzig who eventually prevailed.
The Germans broke on the left and the ball came to the substitute Adams whose shot from some 20 metres deflected by Savic into the net over the wrong-footed Oblak for one of the club’s biggest wins and a first place among the last four.
Leipzig are the first German side to beat Atletico in the knock-out stages, and the first Bundesliga side other than Bayern and Borussia Dortmund to reach the last four since Schalke in 2011.
“We’re really, really excited. We know Paris are a great team, we saw what they did against Atalanta and they’ve got really good players. Now it’s about recovering in the right way, getting ourselves right mentally and working on the game plan,” match-winner Adams said.
“We’re confident in ourselves, you saw that today.”