For an American not used to scoring, Tyler Adams sure knows how to make a mark in European football.
The midfielder came on as a substitute to score an 88th-minute winner that gave Leipzig a 2-1 win over Atlético Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals on Thursday, sending the German club into the last four of Europe's top competition for the first time.
It was Adams' first goal for the club, and also made him the first American to score in the quarterfinals or later in the Champions League.
“When I came on I wanted to bring energy and help the team in any way possible,” Adams said. “Getting your first goal is a little bit unexpected for me. I’m not a typical goal scorer but I’m happy I could help the team.”
Adams scored with a shot from outside the area that deflected off a defender, ensuring that Leipzig's surprising European run will continue into the last four.
He could now become only the second American to play in a Champions League semifinal after DaMarcus Beasley appeared for PSV Eindhoven against AC Milan in 2005.
“Today coming into this game I was told I wasn’t going to start but I needed to be ready to come off the bench and make an impact,” Adams said.
Dani Olmo had opened the scoring for Leipzig in the 51st and João Félix equalized for Atlético from the penalty spot in the 71st.
The result ended yet another title run for Atlético, which was seen as a big favorite to reach the semifinals but again will endure a disappointing elimination. Diego Simeone’s team knocked out defending champion Liverpool in the last 16 and was looking to return to the last four for the first time since 2017, a year after it lost its second final in three seasons.
Leipzig, founded 11 years ago with investment by Red Bull, will next face French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, which eliminated Atalanta in Wednesday’s quarterfinal in Lisbon.
The Champions League is finishing the season amid the coronavirus pandemic with a last eight tournament in Lisbon. The semifinals will be next week and the final will take place on Aug. 23.
Making only its second Champions League appearance, Leipzig looked more dangerous than Atlético during most of the match at the José Alvalade Stadium. Neither team created many significant chances but Leipzig threatened the most with its quick passing and player movement up front.
Some of that fast action in front of the area led to Olmo’s close-range header after a cross from the right side.
Atlético improved after Portuguese forward João Félix came off the bench in the second half, and he equalized from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the area. Félix, a former Benfica star, was playing at the stadium of rival Sporting Lisbon.
Atlético seemed in control after equalizing but couldn’t stop the late breakaway that ended the team’s title hopes again.
“I'm convinced that we gave everything we had,” Simeone said. “But it wasn't enough. We have to raise our heads and try again next season.”
Adams, who entered the match in the 72nd, picked up a pass from the left side and sent a low right-footed shot that deflected off Atlético defender Stefan Savic and took goalkeeper Jan Oblak out of action.
"It’s a deflection but it counts as a regular one so I will take it,” Adams said.
Adams joined Leipzig in January 2019 from another club owner by the Red Bull organization, the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer.
Leipzig was making its debut in the knockout round after one previous appearance in the group stage of the European competition. It eliminated Tottenham in the round of 16, but entered the last eight without top scorer Timo Werner after he joined Chelsea.
“Tonight we’re happy, tomorrow we’ll start looking at (PSG),” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said. "That will be another difficult game, but we’ll have a plan.”