KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Germany finds itself represented in the semi-finals of the Champions League by its own establishment-derided RB Leipzig.
The club whose story is very much a tale of the elite game in the 21st century defeated Atletico Madrid 2-1 in their Lisbon quarter-final: newcomers with only 11 years and not one major trophy behind them outperformed a Spanish giant for whom 117 years and 33 major trophies ultimately counted for nothing.
Leipzig’s official RasenballSport title fools no-one. Their rise from fifth division no-ones since 2009 has been fuelled by the financial support of the Red Bull company.
It has been a trick in open sight. But there was no magic trick to victory over Atletico: only sound organisation and selflessly hard-working and well-drilled players in the image of tirelessly inspirational Marcel Sabitzer.
Victory was a triumph, again in the modern sport lexicon, for the doctrine of marginal gains because the two teams had created barely a handful of openings between them.
Leipzig opened the scoring through a Spaniard – ironically – in Dani Olmo after one of the few cohesive moves of the game in the 50th minute. They conceded a 71st-minute equaliser to a penalty by Joao Felix then grabbed victory with a deflection to an 88th-minute shot from American substitute Tyler Adams which had appeared to be flying wide.
Adams thus claimed not only his first goal for the club but became the first American to score at this late stage of the Champions League.
Atletico, earlier conquerors of holders Liverpool, seemingly struggled to comprehend the demands of the single-leg format of the Final Eight tournament enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leipzig, as throughout all the campaign, ticked over like a well-oiled machine, perfectly engineered by Julian Nagelsmann their 33-year-old coach who is now most firmly on every major club’s radar.
Nagelsmann said: “I’m happy. This was very well deserved. We could hardly believe our luck to take the lead with such a beautiful goal but we then also found the right response after the equaliser. We always reckoned we could have chance to regain retake the lead just before the end.”
Leipzig’s team ethic was exemplified by accomplishing progress into the last four without Timo Werner, their top-scoring international striker who has already abandoned them for the English Premier League and Chelsea.
Last week Werner sat in the stands to see his new club swept out the Champions League in the second round by Bayern Munich.
Bayern, perpetual champions of Germany, may yet join Bundesliga rivals Leipzig in the semi-finals. But that is far from given: their own imminent quarter-final challenge comes from Barcelona.