Diego Simeone’s men will be hugely satisfied with the final outcome of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich, which got them their fifth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions.
The game was solved early on, after only 11 minutes of play through a sublime solo effort from Saul Niguez who put Atletico Madrid in the driving seat of this two-legged tie that is bound to be as interesting affair in the return leg in Munich as well.
Diego Simeone opted for an expected line-up for the match against Bavarian giants, with Stefan Savic stepping in for Diego Godino, who is still struggling with injury. Hernandez Pi was the Uruguayan’s deputy in the previous La Liga match against Malaga, but the Montenegro defender got his chance this time and proved to be the perfect choice, as he had a flawless performance in the heart of defence.
Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann were an obvious choice in the attack and Atletico’s forward duo did well to add pressure to Bayern’s back-four during the Wednesday’s encounter.
Pep Guardiola rested as much as seven first-team players during the weekend all of which returned to team at Vicente Calderon.
Kingsley Coman shook off the knock to earn his place in the starting line-up and put in a fine display throughout.
Robert Lewandowski was completely cut off in attack and Poland striker failed to make his presence known all because of superb defending from Diego Simeone’s charges.
Manuel Neuer was the first one to be called into action only five minutes from the off with Saul attempting a long-range striker for an easy intervention from Bayern’s shot stopper.
Atletico Madrid put plenty of pressure in the opening stages of the match and the hosts got into another scoring opportunity just four minutes later. Fernando Torres picked the ball up on the right flank and cut inside to put an effort that was easily collected by Manuel Neuer once again.
And only three minutes later we saw what turned out to be the sole goal of the game.
Saul Niguez produced a brilliant solo effort waving his place through Bayern defence with magnificent footwork into the box before he curled it in off the post.
It was a wakeup call for Bayern Munich, who got close to making an instant response thorugh Vidal, whose effort was thwarted by Gimenez over the crossbar.
With Atletico Madrid taking a step back to curl up in their usual defensive mode, Bayern Munich controlled much of the remaining time in the first 45 minutes. Alaba struck a powerful shot after 17 minutes, but his effort went wide and Bayern came close to scoring after 25 minutes when Douglas Costa went for a goal from near the touchline and almost caught Oblak on the break, but his shot hit the side-netting.
The hosts attempted to get back through Torres and Griezmann in the closing stages of the first term, but Martinez helped Neuer stop the Atletico duo from doubling the lead at just the right time.
Pep Guardiola will not have been happy during the team-talk, but his team responed in adequate fashion to put a lot of pressure to the hosts in effort to level the score.
Alaba produced the best chance for the visiting team after 54 minutes when his flying effort from 35 yard beat Oblak only to be stopped by the bar.
Visitors were putting a lot of work in attack, but the organized defences of Atletico Madrid held pretty strong to defend their goal.
With 20 minutes on the clock Bayern Munich made another goal-scoring chance when Lahm sent the ball down the right channel to Costa, who tried to lift the ball over Oblak with his left foot, but ended up putting too much on it to land it on the roof of the net.
Same player came close to scoring only minutes later but his rocket of a shot that flew towards the top corner was clear by in-form Oblak, who was drilled through exercises throughout the match.
Atletico were confined to their own half for most part of the second half, but Fernando Torres did well to put his team into an excellent scoring chance. Griezmann tied the Spaniard up near the edge of the box with Torres cutting inside past Alaba before going for goal with the outside of the boot.
Neuer was beaten, but the ball came back off the post!
Bayern Munich laid all cards on the table in the closing minutes of the match, but Alaba, Benatia and Vidal respectively failed to beat the in-form Oblak whose net remained still for the entire 90 minutes.
Atletico Madrid have thus earned a great result before the return leg in Munich which is bound to have hosts hitting hard from the off in their efforts to turn the result around and secure their place in the final.
ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak 8 – Juanfran 7, Gimenez 7.5, Savic 7.5, Filipe Luis 7 – Niguez 8 (Teye 6), Gabi 7, Fernandez 7.5, Koke 7.5 – Griezmann 7, Torres 7.5.
Unused subs: Correa, Gamez, Hernandez Pi, Kranevitter, Vietto, Moya.
BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer 7 – Lahm 7, Martinez 6.5, Alaba 7.5, Bernat 6.5 (Benatia 6.5) – Alonso 7 – Coman 7 (Ribery 6.5), Vidal 7.5, Alcantara 6.5 (Muller 7), Costa 7 – Lewandowski 6.5.
Unused subs: Gotze, Kimmich, Ribery, Tasci, Ulreich.
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg
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