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An 88th-minute goal by American midfielder Tyler Adams broke a deadlock and gave upstart German club RB Leipzig a 2-1 win over favored Atletico Madrid in Thursday’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal in Lisbon.
The victory sent RB Leipzig, founded just 11 years ago by energy drink giant Red Bull, to its first semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain next Tuesday. The 21-year-old Adams would become just the second American to play in the semis of Europe’s top club competition if he appears in that match.
Adams entered Thursday’s contest in the 72nd minute, his 10th consecutive appearance since Leipzig returned to action in May following a two-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. On his game-winner, he took a pass in space from teammate Angelino and fired a right-footed shot that deflected off Atleti defender Stefan Savic and past keeper Jan Oblak:
It was arguably most consequential goal ever scored by an American at the highest level of club soccer. The only other U.S. men’s national team player to reach the Champions League semifinals is four-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who played for Dutch club PSV against AC Milan in 2005.
Somewhat surprisingly, Atletico manager Diego Simeone opted for a starting lineup Thursday that didn’t include electrifying 20-year-old Joao Felix. The Portuguese attacker was sorely missed, too, as Leipzig took a deserved lead though a superb Dani Olmo strike five minutes into the second half:
Simeone brought Felix off the bench shortly after the opener. The move quickly paid off, as the young star drew a penalty that he stepped up to convert from the spot himself:
The loss is another crushing blow for Atletico, which Simeone has managed since 2011 and took to the Champions League final in both 2014 and 2016, losing both times to more decorated crosstown rival Real Madrid.
But it’s another giant leap forward for Leipzig, which is making just its second Champions League appearance in this coronavirus-cursed season, one that delayed the business end of the event for five months and moved it to a neutral site in Portugal’s capital.
After working its way through Germany’s lower divisions, Leipzig only graduated to the top-flight Bundesliga in 2016. Now they’re in Europe’s final four. And for that, manager Julian Nagelsmann’s team has Adams’s late heroics to thank.
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