He had to wait but Jan Oblak is making the Club Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper's spot his own, says Joe Walker, his display against Real Madrid CF his latest fine showing.
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Club Atlético de Madrid may have held Real Madrid CF to a goalless draw in Tuesday's rerun of last season's UEFA Champions League final, but the blank scoreline did not begin to tell the full story of the match.
The reigning champions enjoyed a number of chances, firing in 11 shots at goal as they sought an away goal that would have given them a key advantage. Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak had other ideas, however, setting the tone for what would prove a man of the match display as early as the fourth minute by making a fine stop from Gareth Bale after the Welshman had broken clear. From then on the Slovene international was unbeatable, making eight saves over the 90 minutes to keep the scoresheet blank.
"To keep the ball out of the back of the net is my job," he told UEFA.com. "I'm always looking to improve and today I got a bit of luck too. The atmosphere at the Vicente Calderón was great and it was very important that we didn't concede."
Things have not been straightforward for the 22-year-old, who joined the Spanish title holders last summer in a €16m deal – making him Spain's most expensive goalkeeper – having starred for SL Benfica in their run to last May's UEFA Europa League final.
After sustaining a back injury in pre-season, Oblak found himself below fellow newcomer Miguel Ángel Moyà in the pecking order, with coach Diego Simeone initially preferring the Spaniard for Liga fixtures. Oblak eventually made his Atlético and UEFA Champions League bows on matchday one away to Olympiacos FC, but his debut did not go to plan as the 2014 runners-up crashed 3-2 to the Greek champions.
He then had to wait until the second leg of the round of 16 tie against Bayer 04 Leverkusen last month for his next taste of European action as Moyà left the field with a hamstring injury midway through the first half. One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity, and Oblak – hitherto restricted to Copa del Rey football – seized his moment with both begloved hands.
After posting a clean sheet and saving one of the penalties in the eventual shoot-out win against Leverkusen, he impressed in the next three Liga games as Atlético did not concede a goal, before he was finally beaten in what was only his fourth top-flight outing, Saturday's 2-2 draw at Málaga CF.
Oblak's performances have been such that he could well retain his place even when Moyà returns to fitness. More crucially for Atlético, his showing in the quarter-final first leg means that everything is still to play for when Simeone's side make the short trip to the Santiago Bernabéu next Wednesday.