Hakan Calhanoglu’s second-half wonder strike snapped Bayer Leverkusen’s 7-match UEFA Champions League knockout round losing streak and will send the Bundesliga club to Spain with a 1-0 lead over Atletico Madrid after the first leg.
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After a significant ‘feeling out’ period that had Atletico struggling to keep up with Bayer’s high-press, Bayer nearly took a deserved 1-0 lead.
Bayer defender Emir Spahic found some space 30 yards out and rattled a shot off the intersection of the right post and the crossbar. Keeper Miguel Moya flew to get a tiny piece of it, but it flew past.
Had Bayer wasted a prime chance to have a home lead, as Atletico looked unlike themselves?
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Then Calhanoglu picked up a backheel from Karim Bellarabi and hammered a strike into the goal. After 57 minutes, the hosts were finally up.
Josep Drmic made a cunning dribble in the 74th minute, but couldn’t double Bayer’s lead.
Atletico had appeared to equalize in the 76th minute when a corner kick was flicked onto an unmarked Fernando Torres, but the goal was disallowed on the grounds that the curving corner went out of bounds pre-flick.
Tiago picked up a second yellow card moments later for a wild slide tackle, and was sent off to further damage the La Liga club’s hopes of tying up the match.