Atletico Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen. UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round.
Wednesday 18 March 2015 17:19, UK
Atletico Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 on penalties to progress to the Champions League last eight after winning their last-16 second-leg tie 1-0.
The Spanish champions had trailed 1-0 from the first encounter, only for Mario Suarez’s 27th-minute strike to take the game into extra time at the Vicente Calderon.
However, it was Leverkusen substitute Stefan Kiessling's missed spot-kick that ultimately handed the home side victory in the shootout.
It was Leverkusen, though, who started the brighter of the two teams as they went in search of a potentially match-changing away strike, with the Bundesliga side having the first opening when Karim Bellarabi’s goalbound effort from the edge of the area was deflected inches wide of the post.
And when Atleti striker Mario Mandzukic was then required to clear Son Heung-min’s shot off his own goal-line just past the quarter-hour mark, the home fans’ anxiety began to grow.
However, the Atletico faithful were soon rocking in the stands as their side made the crucial breakthrough thanks to an all-too-rare Suarez strike, only the midfielder’s third in the last four seasons, although it owed much to a huge slice of fortune.
After Leverkusen had only half cleared a Koke free kick, the ball was laid off to Suarez on the left-hand edge of the area and although the Spain international’s strike was on target, Leverkusen No 1 Bernd Leno was well placed to save it before a cruel deflection off centre-back Omer Toprak wrong-footed the goalkeeper.
And given that the was first goal Leverkusen had conceded in 477 minutes of football in all competitions, the palpable relief in the Spanish capital was understandable, although the home team still required a further strike to make the quarter-finals.
After half-time, though, there was only side who really looked like scoring, and that was Atletico as Diego Simeone constantly whipped the home supporters into a state of near delirium.
But hard as they pressed, Atleti just could not find a way past a stubborn and ultra-disciplined Leverkusen back four, with half-chances coming, and going, to the likes of Koke, Arda Turan, twice, and Antoine Griezmann.
As a result, half an hour’s extra time was then required to try and separate the two teams, but apart from an Arda snap shot for Atletico and a long-range effort from Rolfes for the visitors, both sets of defences remained unbreached till the end, leading to the drama of penalties.
Atletico substitute Raul Garcia set the tone by firstly firing high over the bar, only for Hakan Calhanoglu’s feeble effort to then be easily saved by Jan Oblak, who had replaced injured first-choice ‘keeper Miguel Moya after 20 minutes.
Leverkusen defender Toprak also missed, while Atleti skipper Koke saw his effort saved as well, before Kiessling finally skied the 10th and final penalty over the bar to keep Simeone and Co’s dream of winning the trophy alive.