"At the end of the day you need some luck," Fernando Torres told UEFA.com after hitting Club Atlético de Madrid's first European penalty shoot-out winner.
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On his UEFA Champions League home debut for his boyhood side, Fernando Torres helped Club Atlético de Madrid to a first penalty shoot-out victory in UEFA competition at the fourth attempt – 3-2, after their 1-0 win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Tuesday left the aggregate score at 1-1.
"The last time I was in this stadium for a UEFA Champions League match, I was cheering on Atlético and was about ten or 11 years old," the striker told UEFA.com after the match. "So perhaps this success is a bit more special for me than my team-mates."
It did not look like Torres was destined have such a dramatic night after Mario Suárez cancelled out Hakan Çalhanoğlu's first-leg strike within half an hour of kick-off. However, with the Spanish champions unable to score another, many would have worried whether their miserable record in European shoot-outs was going to continue.
Beaten 7-6 on penalties by Derby County FC in the 1974/75 UEFA Cup second round, Atlético lost 3-1 in a shoot-out against ACF Fiorentina in the first round of the same competition in 1989/90. The pattern recurred as the club known in some quarters as El Pupas (the cursed one) were thwarted by Villarreal CF in the 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup final – another 3-1 defeat from 11 metres.
Leverkusen, by contrast, had every reason to welcome penalties after weathering a 120-minute storm in Madrid. They had won their only previous UEFA shoot-out in dramatic circumstances – 3-2 against another Spanish side, RCD Espanyol, in the final of the 1988 UEFA Cup, having cancelled out a 3-0 first-leg defeat. Moreover, Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno has a fine penalty-saving record; the 23-year-old stopped five last season and had fended off 37% of his previous shoot-out spot kicks.
It was an uphill task for Diego Simeone's side, but they made it. "At the end of the day you need some luck with penalties, but you have to take them in a confident way, even though he's a great goalkeeper," Torres said afterwards.
He may not have been feeling so confident after Raúl García had skied Atlético's first effort, but the midfielder's miss was redeemed by Jan Oblak, the substitute goalkeeper standing tall to keep out Çalhanoğlu's kick as the scoreline remained 0-0. Antoine Griezmann then got the ball rolling, while Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes made no mistake before Atlético's man of the match Suárez made it 2-1.
Ömer Toprak missed the target to put last season's UEFA Champions League runners-up in the driving seat, but Leno then flung himself to his right to repel Koke's attempt, Gonzalo Castro seizing the opportunity to even things up at 2-2 before Torres stepped forward to take Atlético's fifth.
"I could breathe again; it was an intense moment," the 30-year-old admitted after holding his nerve to make it 3-2. Stefan Kiessling then put the ball over to seal Atlético's place in the quarter-finals for a second consecutive season and send the Vicente Calderón into raptures.