Slick Atlético inflict more Spain pain on Bayern
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Atlético 1-0 Bayern
Saúl Ñíguez's sensational early goal earned the Spanish side an impressive win to leave this absorbing semi-final tie perfectly poised.
Article top media content
- Saúl Ñíguez scores majestic early goal for impressive home team
- David Alaba and Fernando Torres both strike goal frame in second half
- Bayern seven UEFA Champions League knockout games without win away from home
- Diego Simeone's side keep 14th clean sheet in 16 European home matches
- Second leg is in Munich next Tuesday, with final in Milan on 28 May
Saúl Ñíguez's sensational solo goal was enough to earn Atlético Madrid a narrow win as Bayern lost a UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg in Spain for the third season running.
The home side tore up the pre-match predictions as they burst out of the blocks and took the lead on 11 minutes in majestic fashion. The intensity did not relent until the second half when Bayern were finally allowed to find their rhythm, yet David Alaba's shot off the underside of the bar was as close as they came and Fernando Torres so nearly made it 2-0 late on.
It was not supposed to be like this. The clash had been billed as Bayern's fluid brilliance against Atleti's indomitable collective but for much of the first period the Rojiblancos were both. Saúl Ñíguez's goal epitomised and rewarded their hunger and endeavour.
Picking up the ball midway through Bayern's half, the winger slalomed through three challenges on the edge of the box then set himself before bending the ball inside the far post as three more black shirts converged. Bayern were caught on the hop. Atlético were not done yet, though. José María Giménez's sliced clearance created a few palpitations at the back for a team shorn of keystone Diego Godín but the sight of left-back Filipe Luís carrying the ball high upfield betrayed their intent. The question was: could they keep it up?
The answer, perhaps not surprisingly considering the first-half effort, was no. The second period began as most had expected the first to unfold, with Bayern passing and pressing while Atleti, in tried-and-tested fashion, soaked it up and looked to hit out on the break.
It was mostly Bayern. Alaba went close to an equaliser as memorable as the opener when he let fly from distance. Jan Oblak denied Javi Martínez then Arturo Vidal, yet as Atlético passed 500 minutes without conceding they countered through Antoine Griezmann. He found Torres who thumped a shot off the far post.
Bayern breathed once more, and having already had one high-profile comeback in Munich this season they will be confident of doing it again. Atlético will take some beating, though.
Analysis from Joe Walker at the Vicente Calderón
Key player: Saúl Ñíguez
The 21-year-old has been one of many shining lights for Atlético this term and his performance here was top-drawer. Selfless in his work for Diego Simeone's side in a defensive sense, he scored a wonder goal to give his team the advantage going into next week's return. Thiago Alcántara, Juan Bernat, Xabi Alonso and Alaba were all left in his wake before he fired past Manuel Neuer.
Josep Guardiola paid Atlético an almighty compliment by foregoing an extra attacking player to have three deep-lying central midfielders in his starting XI. Alonso, Thiago and Vidal were charged with gaining a foothold, but the indefatigable Gabi and impressive Augusto Fernández, ably aided by Saúl Ñíguez and Koke, had the edge. The Rojiblancos controlled the middle of the park early on and defended compactly after the interval.
Atlético have now lost just one of their last 30 UEFA competition fixtures at the Vicente Calderón and they are Europe's form side in front of their own fans. Remarkably, before tonight, they had been behind at half-time in only one of their last 31 UEFA Champions League games and they are just the third team to shut out the Germans in their last 30 matches in all competitions.