German Bundesliga club Red Bull Leipzig have become the first German side outside of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund to reach the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League since Schalke 04 in 2010/2011.
RB Leipzig defeated Spanish outfit Atlético Madrid 2-1 in a one legged quarterfinal fixture in Lisbon to set up a last four clash with French Champions Paris Saint-Germain.
The first half of the encounter was particularly boring and there was little or no moment of excitement. On resumption of the second half however, Spaniard Dani Olmo headed the German team ahead and suddenly it looked like they were going to stun the Spanish team and surprise the world if the scoreline remained like that after 90 minutes.
However, Atlético substitute Joao Félix levelled matters from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the box.
As it has been the case with Atletico over the years, the team seemed content to see out the rest of the match with the result and move into extra time as they characteristically sat back for much of the remainder of the game.
They were however punished when American international, Tyler Adams’ deflected strike two minutes to the end of the match sent the Marcel Sabitzer-inspired side to the last four.
Adam’s goal was his first for RB Leipzig in what was his 28th appearance in all competitions for the side. He has also now become the first American to score a Champions League goal in the quarterfinal stage or later.
Kudos must be given to French defender Dayot Upamecano who had a man-of-the-match performance which included intelligently silencing Spanish striker Diego Costa.
The masterclass win was orchestrated without former talismanic striker Timo Werner who had joined Chelsea in June. The German scored 34 goals for the club this season while the starting eleven in their first quarter-final at this level had only managed 44 goals between them.
For Atlético Madrid, they have failed to progress against a German team in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time, getting through on all three previous occasions (vs Bayer Leverkusen twice and Bayern Munich once).
Meanwhile, Diego Simeone’s side have also scored in each of their last 19 games in all competitions, last enjoying a longer scoring run in 2012 (24 games).
The Wanda Metropolitano oufit have reached the final of the Champions League twice in the past six years without winning and this is definitely a major blow to their ambitions on the European scene.
Even back in Spain, Los Rojiblancos have enjoyed little success, last winning the La Liga title in 2014 and have relatively regressed in the way and manner they challenge both Barcelona and Real Madrid for league titles.
33-year-old Julian Nagelsmann keeps making history with his unbelievable feat with the club. He is the youngest manager in Champions League history to win a knockout match. He is also the youngest manager in the competition’s history to reach the semifinals.
A major reason why the RB Leipzig story is one of the greatest sporting stories in a long while is in no small part due to the fact that the club was created only 11 years ago. That same year, Arsenal reached the semifinals of this competition, and have not gotten to the stage since then.
A year after they were founded, the team got promoted to the fourth division and after three years progressed to the third division. The Germans got promotion to the second division in 2014 and then the Bundesliga in 2017. Such has been the remarkable progress of RB Leipzig.
By the time they reached the Bundesliga in 2016, the city of Leipzig had been without a top-flight team for 22 years and there had been no side from the former East Germany in the division since Energie Cottbus were relegated in 2009.
Speaking to BBC Sport, sports reporter Guido Schafer said, “It is good for the city, good for the eastern part of Germany. The whole city loves RB Leipzig, apart from the two traditional clubs, Chemie and Lok Leipzig and everyone knows how worthwhile it is to have such a club in the city. The fanbase is also growing. Now nearly every match is sold out with 40,000.”
However, the love for the Red Bull-owned outfit is not shared in all parts of Germany. In their first Bundesliga season, the club experienced huge criticism from opposition fans.
Leipzig are also often referred to as the “most hated club in Germany” and still face regular protests from opposition supporters.
Rival clubs also feel RB Leipzig exploited the system by having just 17 members with voting rights and got around a law stating teams must not be named after sponsors by officially calling the club RasenBallsport Leipzig, which translates as LawnBallsport Leipzig.
But whatever the case is, RB Leipzig have undoubtedly brought smiles and joy to the faces of football lovers across the globe.