- Saul Niguez will soon be capped by Spain
- One strike off the woodwork for each side
- Jan Oblak’s 33rd clean sheet in 51 games this season
Diego Simeone will be well pleased with his Atletico Madrid side following Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League first-leg triumph over a more favored Bayern Munich side at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in the Spanish capital.
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A clean sheet and a goal scored are always and forever objectives 1a and 1b for any side hosting the first leg of a tw0-leg knockout tie, particularly against a foe of Bayern’s caliber.
Atleti grabbed their goal on 11 minutes through a stunning opener scored by 21-year-old Saul Niguez (WATCH HERE) in which the Spanish midfielder slalomed past four Bayern players before curling a dead-eye strike around Manuel Neuer and off the inside of the far post.
Bayern were thoroughly convinced they should have been awarded a penalty kick in the 28th minute, when Philipp Lahm’s shot from outside the penalty area clearly struck the arm of Atleti midfielder Augusto Fernandez inside the box. The infraction was either missed by referee Mark Clattenburg, or deemed to have been unintentional.
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Two minutes later, Antoine Griezmann so nearly doubled Atleti’s lead, but Neuer came up with a big save with the Frenchman racing into his six-yard box all by his lonesome. Griezmann went for the toe-poke at the near post, but Neuer was down quick to push it wide.
With 54 minutes on the clock, David Alaba, who started the game at center back — yes, center back — due to a rash of injuries to all of Bayern’s central defenders, unleashed a dipping laser from 35 yards out, but found nothing but the front side of the crossbar.
Bayern once again went inches from equalizing two minutes later, when Javi Martinez superbly nodded down a lofted, out-swinging corner kick from Douglas Costa. Martinez’s header was low at the goal line and to the right of Jan Oblak, but the Slovenian goalkeeper was down quick to smother the ball on the goal line.
Atleti’s first real chance of the second half came in the 75th minute, as Fernando Torres went on his own clever dash through Bayern’s penalty area. Griezmann fed the Spaniard onto the right flank, Torres cut inside and hit a curler for the far post with the outside of his right foot. Post. The rebound fell to a late-arriving Koke, but his curling effort toward the opposite post was saved and held by Neuer.
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Atleti will take their one-goal lead into next Tuesday’s second leg, at the Allianz Arena in Munich, aiming to qualify for their second Champions League final in three seasons, where we could see a rematch of the 2013-14 final between Atleti and their almighty neighbors, Real Madrd.