MADRID (AP) — Atlético Madrid kept old foe Cristiano Ronaldo in check but couldn’t hold on to its lead against Manchester United, conceding late in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.
João Félix — once touted as the next Ronaldo — put the hosts ahead with a diving header seven minutes into the match, but substitute Anthony Elanga equalized in the 80th, five minutes after coming off the bench at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Atlético was in control during most of the match and twice hit the crossbar, including with an 86th-minute shot by Antoine Griezmann.
The return leg will be on March 15 in England.
In the other round-of-16 match, Benfica and Ajax drew 2-2 in Portugal.
Ronaldo, who several times ended Atlético’s title hopes in the Champions League when he was with crosstown rival Real Madrid, struggled throughout the match and was visibly frustrated. Isolated up front, he was booed by the Atlético fans nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano.
Félix was much more dangerous for Atlético, constantly threatening with his quick turns and strong runs.
The 21-year-old forward opened the scoring with a powerful header off a well-placed cross by Renan Lodi. The ball came off the post before going in to make Félix the first Portuguese player to score a Champions League goal against United since Ronaldo found the net for Juventus against the English side in November 2018.
It was Félix’s seventh Champions League goal in 20 appearances in the competition, and first since 2020.
With the 37-year-old Ronaldo well defended and not being able to connect with his teammates, United seemed beaten until Elanga broke free to find the net from inside the area after a nice through ball from playmaker Bruno Fernandes, the competition’s assists leader with seven.
Griezmann, who started on the bench along with Luis Suárez, had the chance to put Atlético ahead again near the end but his shot hit the crossbar. Atlético also was held by the woodwork just before halftime when a close-range header by Sime Vrsaljko bounced onto the crossbar off the face of United defender Victor Lindelof.
Ronaldo, who had scored in all five group-stage matches he played, was visibly frustrated with his team’s struggles and also complained to the referees while going into the changing rooms at halftime. His best scoring chance came from a 79th-minute free kick that sailed high.
He has only one goal in his last nine games in all competitions in what is one of his leanest spells since becoming a scoring machine in the latter part of his first stint with United from 2003-09.
Ronaldo helped end Atlético’s Champions League title hopes five different times while playing for Real Madrid and Juventus. He scored hat tricks for Madrid in 2017 and Juventus in 2019, and converted decisive penalty kicks in the finals between the city rivals in 2014 and 2016.
He had 25 goals in 35 career meetings against Atlético, the most against any opponent other than Sevilla.
It was the first meeting between the clubs since the second round of the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup in 1991-92, when Atlético won 4-1 on aggregate.